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Copyright, 1920, by Richabd G. Badger / 

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Made in the United States of America 

The Gorham Press, Boston, U. S. A. 

FEB -9 1921 


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It is a pleasing task to record afresh the Hfe course 
of one of those whom the poet Whittier characterized 
as "the noblest ancestry that ever a people looked 
back to \vith love and reverence." 

The leading authorities, particularly the Pilgrim 
narrators themselves and those more nearly contem- 
porary with them, have contributed to this biog- 
raphy. Though early Plymouth events and the 
career of Bradford are inseparably connected, the 
colonial history is here limited and made subservient 
to the personal consideration, with regret that there 
do not appear more obtainable data of this nature. 
Undoubtedly the Governor's modest reticence largely 
accounts for this. We can only be thankful that we 
have what we have. 

Albert H. Plumb. 



The Boy H 


The Pilgrim 23 

The Governor: Early Duties 41 


The Governor: Later Administration . . 61 


The Governor: Last Acts 89 




Earth's transitory things decay. 
Its pomps, its pleasures pass away; 
But the sweet memory of the good 
Survives in the vicissitude. 


nr^HE world has nothing more worthy of our re- 
-*■ gard than its unconscious heroes. Though 
many can discern their own true importance, a pe- 
cuHar charm invests such as do not realize it, even 
if they are told. They seem to think others would 
have done better in their place, and they lightly esti- 
mate their services, at less than their fellow-men ac- 
credit them. His ideal of duty captivates the doer 
more than his own agency therein. The noblest men 
are made by the contemplation of their models. Like 
the great Apostle, they are not disobedient unto the 


12 William Bradford of Plyinouth 

heavenly vision. Among earth's worthies, modest and 
unconscious of greatness, there stands the figure of 
Wilham Bradford. 

We find him first as a native of Austerfield, Eng- 
land, on the south border of Yorkshire. There is 
no official record of his birth. But in addition to his 
o\m. declaration of age when first married, the clearly 
legible record of his baptism, March 19, 1589, 
would indicate that by the modern calendar he was 
born in 1590. The garments worn by him at the 
chapel March 19-29, being a short white linen cov- 
ering and mitts which came for exhibition to Essex 
Institute in Salem, Massachusetts, are the apparel 
of a small babe. 

The affirmation of Bradford, as a man thoroughly 
established in his integrit}' and his accuracy of 
statement, this declaration in the important matter 
of his marriage contract when he was required to sub- 
scribe his own signature, must be accepted as more 
weighty than the opinions given by others regarding 
his age in later years of his life, and the posthumous 
inscription placed long afterward on liis monument. 
It is unlikely that he was consulted about his age, for 
any future epitaph, since even the necessary mak- 
ing of his will was deferred to the day of his death. 
Not long before his nuptials on December 10-20, 
1613, he averred that he was twenty-three; and, 
supposing an error of his quite improbable here, our 
conclusion appears justified that he was born in 1590 

The Boy 13 

b}' the Gregorian calendar. We also liave no reason 
to doubt an old claim that his natal month was the 
same as his baptismal, March. Besides, the rule 
existed then, that the rite should be administered one 
week after birth. If this contemporary custom was 
followed, William saw the light of day March 12, 
1589, by Old Style, or March 22, 1590, New Style. 

It is unfortunate that the baptismal font, despite 
efforts to purchase it back, has not yet, to our knowl- 
edge, been yielded by the Methodist church in Lound, 
Nottinghamshire, and restored to its proper place 
at Saint Helen's in Austerfield. Tlie Austerfield font 
at present we do not accept as the genuine original. 
That original one at Saint Helen's about the time of 
our Civil War seems to have been a victim to the 
generally weaker antiquarian interest then, and it 
was replaced by a high basin. It came back soon but 
evidently was unused, lying upon the floor aside. 
Then a sexton was ordered to take out and sell super- 
fluous articles. After resting on an estate as a garden 
stone, it was given to a lady from Austerfield, who 
loaned it indefinitely to the church mentioned. It is 
a large Norman bowl, rough-hewn and of ancient as- 
pect, which when in use was for convenience set upon 
a wooden block. 

When the tolling bells above the small stone chapel 
summoned the Bradford family and friends to the 
solemn service, little did they discern, with all their 
natural affection, any unusual significance in that 

14 William Bradford of Plymouth 

consecration of a life to be expended far from the 
quiet hamlet of old England in a growing community 
of New England. 

As the child came to an age of sufficient under- 
standing, how strongl}' must this humble shrine have 
appealed to him, with the development of his pro- 
clivities guided by one circumstance after another! 
It was erected during the twelfth century, in the cen- 
tre of the village, when the rustic parish was pre- 
sented by a person of rank for the support of a 
chaplain. Doubtless the lad's eyes often scrutinized 
the zigzag Norse symbol of lightning, and other 
ornamentation, carved upon the double arch under 
which he was wont to enter. 

The whole region was rich in historic interest to 
any reflective mind. It was the battle ground of 
Briton, Roman and Anglo-Saxon. It formed the 
heart of the Danish territory, opposite their native 
continental shores. The Robin Hood marauders op- 
erated through this sparsely settled North of Eng- 
land, where the last of several uprisings against the 
South was attempted only about a score of years be- 
fore Bradford's birth. The people were compara- 
tively rude and uneducated, with few schools ; and 
papal influence yielded more slowly away from the 
governmental headquarters. If Mary Queen of Scots 
had not been executed shortly before the Puritan 
churches arose, it is difficult to sec how or when they 
could have lived so near her seat of power. But 

Th^ Boy 15 

Elizabeth, in her laudable aim to uplift the nation by 
improving the people and repressing the nobles, en- 
couraged the incoming of tens of thousands of Dutch, 
of whom many flocked to the fair lowlands east and 
north, imparting their tolerant ideas, bestowing 
names upon numerous localities, and producing a 
marked effect in the speech and blood of the inhabit- 
ants. The Queen required every family of Hollanders 
to take an English apprentice in their imported arts 
and crafts. Thus England changed rapidly from a 
country merely agricultural to one also manufac- 
turing, where industry was pursued in weaving cloth 
and in glass, pottery, iron and various metals, 
wrought not in factories at first but in private 
houses as once was commonly done in New England. 
The religious effect of this immigration was not 
in the royal reckoning; for much as Elizabeth hated 
the papacy, she despised its counterpart, as quite 
too good for her liking, namely, the body of her sub- 
jects which represented an intelligent faith, and holy 
practice according to the accepted dictates of a re- 
vered, studied and intensely cherished Sacred Scrip- 
ture. Though she could do no more than patronize, 
from political motives, any order of spiritual devo- 
tion as long as she herself would not learn to love 
devoutly, she failed to realize that the infusion of 
the virile Puritan element, regardless of racial 
strain, in the field of religion saved her authorized 
church from relapsing into Romanism. Her sue- 

16 William Bradford of Plymouth 

cessor, James, was a fit son of Mary of ScotlaiKil, 
in his intolerance towards Puritans, Protestants 
though they were. 

Austerfield itself, though having less than three 
hundred residents, was the scene of a great session 
in 702, when the Archbishop of Canterbury and the 
bishops of almost all England met with King Aldfrid 
to hear the complaint of Wilfred the Bishop of York, 
who was so ardent a Romanist that the former king 
had deposed him. The English under Aldfrid won 
against the papal part}'^, but before the venerable 
Wilfred died he was restored to office and canonized, 
and the first Puritan assembly after coming to 
Ccrooby gathered awhile in a stone church named 
for him. 

Bradford's native town also, despite its quiet 
rural beauty, lay upon the Great Northern Road to 
Scotland, as now on the railroad named after it the 
express comes thundering by from the grimy granite 
houses of Edinboro, bound for the mighty metropolis 
before midnight of the afternoon it started. But the 
old dirt road was only a few feet wide, almost a 
stranger to horse-drawn vehicles, especially pleasure 
carriages, even the ladies of the Elizabethan era 
using mostly their mounts, as those in America later 
rode on their pillions. 

More agreeable, locally, were the meadow paths 
along the Idle, and other leisurely streams of this 
boy's neighborhood. His family name was originally 

The Boy 17 

ap; lied to those who lived at some convenient Broad 
Ford, many desirable crossings having some descrip- 
tive or defining term, like Ox Ford and Cam Bridge. 

His taste for Latin might well have been intensified 
by the very name of his Austerfield, which, earlier 
than the Anglo-Saxon localities, was probably named 
for the imperial Roman commander Ostorius, who 
had a defensive earthwork at his station near here. 
Its remains attested its military importance. And 
though the northern peasantry in young William's 
time were so untutored or morally lax, or both, that 
they were unacquainted with even their English 
Bible, it is not strange if these historical associa- 
tions induced the more intelligent and refined yeomen 
to possess Latin books. It has been supposed that 
his own family owned them, with English works, all 
of which were rare and costly ; and in addition to this 
likelihood, it is known that Rev. Mr. Silvester of 
Alkly had a classical collection in his own library. 
As this clergyman was a family friend and the 
guardian of William's cousins, the Austerfield boy 
would naturally become a visitor at the neighboring 

Wills and records indicate that the Bradfords in 
general were of good repute and moved in the best 
society of that too decadent period. The Austerfield 
branch were yeomen, once so important in the Eng- 
lish commons that the}^ ranked next to the gentry. 

At the north end of the village the house still 

18 William Bradford of Plymouth 

stands which tradition claims as our Bradford's 
birthplace. It is of substantial brick, exceedingly 
rare in his day and a sign of social distinction. 
Many houses of the time were quite attractive in ap- 
pearance with their red roofs, green shutters and 
yellow doorsteps. This is a ruddy cottage from 
fluted tiling down to the grass, and sufficiently large 
to comprise two tenements now. 

The boy's grandfather William and maternal 
grandfather John Hanson were the only mentioned 
owners of property in their small to\\Ti in 1575, and 
he inherited in time a good patrimony. His father 
William died in 1591, his mother Alice soon after, 
and the paternal grandfather, in whose care he was 
left, expired not until January of 1596, the only 
ancestor the third William would be likely to remem- 
ber. Then the simple life and talk of the farm ceased, 
on the part of those who would converse with the lad 
on their common interests and show the most of 
natural affection toward him. The charge over his 
life by his uncles Thomas and Robert was one of 
legal imposition rather than a matter of love. Rob- 
ert naturally wished him to be a farmer, but per- 
mitted him to study when he proved not very rugged 
at first. 

Before he was twelve, an illness of long continuance 
coming upon him, youthful intelligence and spiritual 
sensitiveness were developed in him untroubled by 
temptations more liable in physical vigor. Denied 

The Boy 19 

the warmth of family affection, and for a season 
the wholesome sports of youth, while naturally made 
more serious also as an orphan, the boy delighted in 
the contemplation of religious truth, particularly 
in Bible study ; and this became with him a lifelong 

Over the line in Nottinghamshire a few miles away, 
lay another small town, Scrooby, where one William 
Brewster was postmaster, well qualified as a collegi- 
ate and public official, to teach history and civil 
government. He occupied an ancient manor and 
commodious hostelry which royalty had twice cov- 
eted. Within its spacious halls were wont to gatlier 
a few earnest souls who were discontented with the 
empty formalism so common in religious profession 
at that time, and they were restive under the super- 
abundant authority of the state in church matters. 
They insisted on freedom of the individual conscience, 
from either civil or ecclesiastical domination, and 
were also convinced that genuine Christianity called 
for a Christlike life. This was nothing less than 
Puritanism, which as a term was originally coined 
by its foes in contempt, but later became a name of 
honor and glory. Though long in preparing, since 
Wycliffe gave to the English people the Holy Scrip- 
tures in their own familiar speech, this movement 
was only now coming to its full fruition ; and the 
group of earnest worshipers in Scrooby, who had 
first organized at Gainsboro in 1602, composed the 

9,0 William Bradford of Plymouth 

earliest Puritan church to stand and prosper, others 
following in a multitude as the cause gained mo- 

Brewster was made Elder at Scrooby, and the boy 
Bradford was one of the charter members. He ac- 
cepted the instruction of kind friends who were glad 
to satisfy his eager thirst for spiritual knowledge. 
Conspicuous among these was Rev, Richard Clyfton 
of Babworth, who ministered to the new church for 
a short time until their permanent pastor was se- 
cured, the devout and learned John Robinson. But 
before the church was formed in Gainsboro and 
Scrooby, when Bradford was hardly twelve he walked 
every Sunday over the fields to Babworth, six or 
seven miles from Austerfield, joining Brewster at 
Scrooby on the way. The Elder was made Postmas- 
ter in the year his future Governor was bom, and 
the two Williams were lifelong intimates. Religi- 
ously he was like a father to the boy. 

With this unchecked expansion of his soul, 3'oung 
William's intellect was also awakened. Though at 
first forbidden advanced schooling, he became a 
self-taught man, a thoughtful student of history, 
philosophy and theology, proficient also in linguis- 
tics, as the classic Latin and Greek, and late in life, 
the original Hebrew of the Old Testament. 

His joining with the Separatists from the Estab- 
lished State Church of England was an act which 
offended his relatives and early acquaintances, who 

Tlw Boy 91 

tried in vain to make him abandon his stand ; for he 
could not, consistently with his convictions, comply 
with their desires. It was observed that "neither 
could the wrath of his uncles, nor the scoft' of his 
neighbors, now turned upon him as one of the Puri- 
tans, divert him from his pious inclinations. Thus 
he answered them, "To keep a good conscience and 
walk in such a way as God has prescribed in his word 
is a thing which I shall prefer above yon all, and 
above life itself." 

Government officers soon discovered this company 
of Dissenters, stopped their meetings, and proceeded 
to make arrests. In the autumn of 1607 when sev- 
enteen years of age, Bradford and his associates en- 
deavored to go over to Holland, where religious lib- 
erty was allowed. He was one of the chief advocates 
of this measure. But the ship master that was to 
take them betrayed their plan to the authorities, 
who sent the Puritans into prison at Boston in Lin- 
colnshire. Next spring the same attempt was made, 
unsuccessfully again ; for their rulers neither 
granted them freedom at home nor emigration 
abroad. But before that year of 1608 passed, the 
victims of persecution escaped one after another, by 
various means, across the water to Amsterdam. 
Bradford's ship encountered a seven days* storm 
and was driven out of its course hundreds of miles, 
close to Norway, even the mariners giving up in 
despair. The Pilgrims remained calm, though un- 

22 Williain, Bradford of Plymouth 

used to the sea ; and our hero was heard to repeat in 
prayer, with his companions, "Yet, Lord, thou canst 

On reaching Holland, an envious passenger ac- 
cused him as having fled from England as a culprit, 
and he was taken before the magistrates, who, how- 
ever, willingly released him when the truth was 

Leyden was the Pilgrims' rendezvous. The place 
was congenial to the ardent spirit of this youth, 
and he became a student at the University there. 
He must have heard in England as a boy, how the 
martyr John Bradford, chaplain to Edward VI and 
one of the most acceptable preachers in the realm, 
because of his religious principles had been burned 
to death, in the reign of Bloody Mary. And the 
people of Leyden could recite for sympathetic 
ears, the tales of heroic and successful resistance 
against King Philip of Spain only thirty years be- 
fore these Puritan refugees from intolerance ar- 

William now went about to earn a living. As an 
apprentice to a French Protestant, he learned the 
trade of dying silk, and doubtless, beside his Dutch, 
acquired here his thorough familiarity^ with the 
French language so widely used even in those days. 



The best inheritance they have left us is the New 
England conscience. The Puritan's habit of self- 
examination and prayer has left its impress on the 
habit of thought of tl^ great nation that has risen where 
he showed the way. 

Governor Guild of ^lassachusetts, at the four hun- 
dredth anniversary of the birth of Calvin, in Geneva, 
Switzerland, July 9, 1909. 

Religious faith must ever be the motive power of 
humanity , and tvhatever might become of despotism, with 
or without, it is absolutely essential to democracy. 

Governor Hughes of New York, at the Champlain 
Tercentenary, Vermont, July 9, 1909. 

Religion is the only thing upon which to rest our 
salvation in these times. It is religious principles to 
which our C ommonwealth owes its greatness. 

Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts, at the 
twenty-fifth anniversary of the Lord's Day League, 
Boston, 1920. 

ON reaching the age of twenty-one, our Bradford 
became the possessor of his native estate in 

24 WiUiam Bradford of Plymouth 

England, which he sold, as then useless for him to 
hold. But well he knew, that the recantation of liis 
faith would restore him to independence and presu- 
mably to the favor of the Austerfield community. 
What lay in the future for him he could not conceive. 
He took the sale money and ventured in some com- 
mercial enterprise, but did not prosper in it. His 
career was to be of more importance than the busi- 
ness of a merchant. 

After turning twenty-two, he was admitted, on 
proof and security, a citizen of Leyden, as William 
Bradford, Englishman. In the end of the next year 
his marriage bans were published, and he was reg- 
istered as a worker in fustian, a coarse cloth of cot- 
ton and flax. On December 20, 1613, he wedded 
Dorothy May, aged sixteen, formerly of Cambridge, 
and probably the granddaughter of John May, 
Bishop of Carlisle in 1577. Her autograph, "Dority 
May," appears in her marriage contract. Bradford, 
when in America later, had friendly correspondence 
with her father in Holland. 

While in Leyden now, he had the joy of perceiving 
the rapid growth of the Puritan fellowship there, 
numbering finally almost three hundred. Purchasing 
considerable land, they settled in a community by 
themselves. Robinson, their spiritual head, was held 
in much esteem throughout the city, for his noble 
character and fine abilities. Bradford in written 

The PiLgrim 25 

eulogy ascribes to him "y® tender love & godly care 
of a true pastor." 

Yet in spite of the hospitality of Holland, the 
condition was not normal nor the prospects ideal, 
for an English settlement among those of foreign 
speech. The rising generation would naturally af- 
filiate with their neighbors, entering the Dutch army 
and society ; and the outcome promised to be a blend 
of blood and customs. The truce between Holland 
and Spain would be over in 1619; and the Thirty 
Years War was already rising in Europe. Wishing 
to preserve their national character and distinct 
religious order, they meditated emigration as a 
colony. In this the foreign missionary motive was 
also strong, freely acknowledged, and always re- 
membered. "A great hope & inward zeall they had," 
Bradford later recorded, "of laying some good foun- 
dation, or at least to make some way thereunto, 
for y® propagating & advancing y® gospell of y^ 
kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of y® world ; 
yea, though they should be but even as stepping- 
stones unto others for y® performing of so great 
a work." 

They were dissuaded from the tropical entice- 
ments of Spanish American neighborhoods by the 
recollection of Spain's interests and ambitions there. 
The vote was indeed close, to go to any part of the 
strange western world ; and our hero, being in favor 

26 William Bradford of Plymouth 

of it, may have been required to turn the hesitating 
weight of opinion that way. 

But if residence in the British dominion, near or 
far, was preferable, some sort of recognition by the 
English government was necessary. This was a 
hard thing to secure, yet King James finally gave a 
reluctant verbal consent to their desired settlement 
in some remoter territory, where they would afford 
him and his servile clericals the least annoyance, 
while helping to establish the empire as respectable 
and industrious citizens. 

Royal toleration having been cautiously granted, 
the next task was to secure financial patronage. It 
was a task indeed, yet the Pilgrims, as these Sep- 
aratist Puritans now called themselves, were happy 
in finding not only creditors who risked loans for 
mercantile considerations solely, but distinguished 
persons who were in sympathy with their Christian 
zeal and purity, as Sir Robert Naunton, Secretary 
of State to the King, and particularly Sir Edwin 
Sandys, a most worthy and influential man. For 
three years, however, the business negotiations 
dragged on, whose dreary details we will not re- 
hearse, between the Puritans with their friends on 
one side, and on the other the failing or insecure 
London and old Plymouth colonial companies, the 
proffered Dutch sponsors whose kindness neverthe- 
less looked to the Hudson and New Amsterdam, and 
finally the company of Merchant Adventurers, to 

The PUgnm 27 

whom the enterprising but unscrupulous Thomas 
Weston introduced the Pilgrims. He was useful to 
them in this crisis, because he procured their financial 
backing and made possible the journey to America. 
This benefit Bradford never forgot, despite all the 
falsehood, treachery, and ingratitude which Weston 
developed, who almost caused the ruin of the under- 
taking after he was weary of it and involved in 
difficulties through his mismanagement. 

The colonial plan was that the younger and more 
able of the Leyden community should go overseas at 
first, to prepare the way for the others ; and it was 
well that Bradford and the most of his fellow-voy- 
agers had the advantage of youthful prime, for the 
stem days of pioneering. 

The parting from their friends, on the embarka- 
tion at Delft Haven, was a sad experience, between 
the doubtful attractiveness of a distant savage land 
and the fact that it was likely to be, as it proved, a 
final leavetaking for many. Pastor Robinson, on 
his knees at the quay, poured out fervent petitions 
for their comrades about to go, commending them 
to divine protection. So affecting was the scene, 
that even the Dutch strangers beholding were moved 
to tears. Our Forefather wrote concerning this, 
"so they left the goodly and pleasant city, which had 
been their resting-place near twelve years ; but they 
knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on 
those things, but lift up their eyes to the heavens, 

28 WiUiam Bradford of Plymouth 

their dearest country and quieted their spirits." 
The Speedwell wliich conveyed them came in a 
few days to Southampton, to find the Mayflower 
from London waiting for them, with their brethren 
of England. Picture the youthful adventurers in 
their ardor to set forth as pioneers to a land of 
comparative freedom. But the sailing was badly de- 
layed, to their weariness and loss, while they pro- 
tested against impossible terms of subservience to 
the Merchant Adventurers, who would have de- 
prived the prospective planters of their independ- 
ence. Then a hundred pounds extra was required 
"to clear things at their going away"; and to raise 
this amount they had to sell some of their provisions, 
their leather for mending shoes, swords, muskets, 
much aiTnor and various things seemingly indispen- 

Before setting sail, a letter was received from 
Pastor Robinson, in which he mingled encouragement 
and sound counsel, urging them to fortify their 
souls by prayer, to preserve unity, exercise mutual 
patience and forbearance in their close relationship, 
and to submit to their own rules and chosen officers. 
Other wise advice was opportunely given, which was 
well received and profitably followed. 

About the middle of August the colonists launched 
forth. But their relief on going was short, for, by 
enough evidence and subsequent confession, the 
Speedwell was tampered with by her false and tim- 

The PUgrim 29 

orous Captain Reynolds, so that the vessels put back 
to port for another tedious period, eleven days, os- 
tensibly for repairs. Starting a second time, Rey- 
nold's sliip sprang a leak again, and though three 
hundred miles out they were obliged to return. The 
creeping Speedwell was therefore abandoned, her 
passengers and cargo transferred to the Mayflower 
according to that larger ship's capacity' ; and after 
much kindness and acceptable entertainment by cer- 
tain friends at old Plymouth, the Pilgrims, one hun- 
dred and two in number, ventured out the third 
time, and not in vain. This was September 6, or 
16 by New Style. 

Mild weather and favoring winds were theirs at 
first, and the equinoctial rudeness tarried till the 
voyagers were nearly halfway across the Atlantic. 
Then they paid dearly for the wicked delays im- 
posed upon them, for a succession of storms soon 
broke upon them in October. The west wind inished 
upon them from the American north coasts, as if 
to forbid their approach. The mariners were once 
more in doubt about proceeding, as the upper works 
were strained, and a main beam amidships had 
cracked and bent. But by means of a huge iron 
screw, it was restored to position ; and the discon- 
tented crew stood to their duty, since also the west- 
em shore was about as near as England. Sometimes 
drifting under bare poles over high seas, the top- 
heavy, overloaded vessel nevertheless refused to 

30 William Bradford of Plymouth 

founder, and late in October fair weather returned. 

After dawn one November morning they sighted 
land, and recognized Cape Cod, well known to pre- 
vious mariners. This landfall was evidently the 
Highlands of Truro. Steering south-west while well 
out, they encountered the shoals off Chatham, at the 
elbow of the Cape, and resolved to abandon the run 
under New England to the Hudson. Captain Jones 
practically took the matter into his own hands, and 
conveyed the sea-weary voyagers back and around 
the tip of the Cape, anchoring in tlie nearest avail- 
able harbor, at present Provincetown, on Saturday, 
November 21, New Style. 

Bradford says that before entering the harbor, 
they drew up a compact as "y® first foundation of 
their governments in this place," to which he and all 
the men of the incipient Colony affixed their signa- 
tures. This classic document of essential democracy 
was a swift and prudent precaution against insub- 
ordination, which a few ultra-independent souls had 
threatened to show, declaring that on landing they 
would do as they pleased, since in New England they 
were not under the authority of their patent for Vir- 
ginia. It was English territory, however, and in the 
beginning of the statement they professed themselves 
"loyal subjects" of King James. Better to have the 
protection of an unsympathetic sovereign than to be- 
come the prey of a lawless and irresponsible anarchy. 
Thus "before they came ashore," they secured them- 

The Pilgrim SI 

selves against despotism's opposite extreme. It was 
a timely act, done on the day of debarkation. 

The Mayflower boxed the compass, rounding the 
tip of the Cape and feeling her way in the circular 
harbor there. The inner beaches are shallow, and it 
seems even the longboat, though launched three-quar- 
ters of a mile off, could not be brought near the 
strand. The men were obliged to wade a bow-shot 
or two, landing at the insular Long Point, toward 
the sea, and carrying back to the boat swamp-cedar, 
as fire-wood aboard was gone. The exposure caused 
illness at this season, which with later aggravations 
proved fatal to some. Bradford escaped the "lung 
woe," but contracted an acute and critical form of 
rheumatism, or confirmed it after the chilly discom- 
forts of the bunks and the sweeping gales of the 

Yet despite this prolonged cold foot-bath in 
American brine, he records that "being thus arrived 
in a good harbor, and brought safe to land ; they fell 
upon their knees and blessed y® God of heaven ; who 
had brought them over y® vast and furious ocean, 
and delivered them from all y® periles and miseries 
thereof ; againe to set their f eete on y® firm and stable 
earth, theire proper element.** 

Though the Mayflower must have anchored before 
noon on Saturday, the first full day after arrival 
was Sunday, and these Pilgrims strangers had an op- 
portunity to refresh themselves and prepare their 

32 William Bradford of Plymouth 

souls for the strenuous business ahead. Also through- 
out that initial week of life in America, the weather 
was mellow and open. Several weeks were required 
for repairing the colonists' shallop, which was a 
means of more delay in the already very late season. 
But meanwhile, on the last Wednesday of November 
an exploring party started out with Capt. Jones 
and some seamen ; and in the afternoon sixteen in- 
tending settlers followed, armed and under command 
of Myles Standish, Masters Bradford, Hopkins and 
Edward Tilley "being joined to him for council." 
They saw Indians, whom they followed for several 
miles, but could not come up with them. Finding 
much com buried, they brought some of it to the ship 
and later paid the natives for it, after using it for 
seed. But in this and another trip on the narrow 
part of the Cape, they discovered no locality which 
suited them for settlement. 

As December came in, the protracted mildness 
changed to a sudden and intense cold, the ground 
freezing to a foot*s depth, wind and snow also im- 
peding their operations, while in the boats the con- 
gealed spray on their coats looked like a covering of 
glass. To add to the awkwardness of the situation, 
Capt. Jones threatened to put ashore the whole com- 
pany with their families and scanty possessions, and 
return to England at once because of the late sea- 
son and his diminishing food supply, unless they suc- 
ceeded in finding a place for habitation. At this 

The PUgrim 33 

juncture Second Mate Coppin suggested that they 
look for a harbor somewhere around in Cape Cod 
Bay, which he remembered visiting on a fishing vessel. 
Accordingly, when December was now half through, 
ten of the Pilgrims, including Bradford, went in their 
repaired shallop with eight mariners, in search of 
that location, skirting the inner shores. 

They camped the first night on the south of the 
Bay, building a barricade of logs and boughs, as a 
shelter also against the wind, open on one side with a 
fire in the centre. Their defense was useful, for 
unawares they had come close to a settlement of 
Nauset Indians, a tribe which had suffered cruelty at 
the hands of infamous Capt, Hunt who kidnapped 
some of them and sold them abroad as slaves. In- 
tent on revenge, they approached within hearing of 
the English sentry, about midnight ; but on his rais- 
ing tlie alarm, they made no attack then, and the 
voyagers returned to their needed sleep, not being 
sure whether the noise was caused by man or beast. 

On awakening Friday morning, December 18, they 
united in prayer for heavenly leading and protection, 
and encouraged one another. While breakfast was 
preparing, some of them went do^m to put their 
muskets in the shallop, but on the remonstrance of a 
few who retained their arms, the rest were laid on 
the bank above the boat. They had no sooner re- 
turned to their camp than they were startled by the 
ringing war-whoop, and one of their own number 

34 William Bradford of Plymouth 

came running from the woods, calling to them, "Men, 
men ! Indians, Indians !" A shower of arrows sought 
the barricade, transfixing some of the hanging coats. 
Fortunately the prudent four who had kept their 
weapons made good use of them, and some who had 
armor donned it and with their swords accompanied 
their comrades in a rush to the bank for the muskets, 
the Indians racing to intercept them but in vain. 
The weapons carelessly left were now discharged with 
a quieting effect, the savages soon retreating, with- 
out losses on either side. To increase their fear, the 
colonists pursued them a little way, shouting and 
firing. Then, thanking God for their deliverance, 
they embarked and went up the west shore north- 

It was an uninviting coast. But Robert Coppin 
encouraged them in the hope of reaching before dark 
that harbor he had visited, though these were the 
shortest days of the year and thick weather was set- 
ting in fast, followed by snow and rain in the after- 
noon, a south-east storm rising. Their rudder broke 
under the strain, and two men were required to steer 
with oars the heavy shallop, which someone has con- 
sidered as about thirty feet in length. It was shelter- 
less, without deck or house. 

Finally their pilot gave the cheering news that he 
could discern the harbor. As the daylight was less- 
ening and the tempest increasing, they risked too 
much sail with the intention of clearing the rocks 

The Pilgrim 35 

at the entrance while they could see. Suddenly the 
overburdened mast snapped in three pieces and the 
sail went overboard, nearly capsizing the little vessel. 
Righting her quickly, and riding in by the oars with 
the tide aiding, their guide, however, failed to recog- 
nize the place in the deepening twilight. Trying to 
run ashore in the cove of Saquish, the breakers were 
so huge and thunderous there, that a seaman, wisely 
foreseeing disaster, protested and they turned away. 
But soon was heard a gentler wash against some pro- 
tected beach, to which the oarsmen pulled. Ground- 
ing the keel, some of them gladly leaped out, feeling 
with inexpressible relief the solid strand beneath their 
feet. The others, remembering the encounter of 
early morning, remained in the shallop till after mid- 
night, when a bitter clearing wind drove tliem ashore 
to the fire which their fellows had managed to kindle. 
There they all awaited the dawn. 

With the welcome day the north-west wind went 
down, and the sun added its warmth to the fire. They 
were pleased to find themselves upon an island, and 
they used that Saturday to dry out their soaked be- 
longings and prepare their muskets, while taking a 
good look at the harbor. On a rock upon this 
Clarke's Island, are the words inscribed from their 
record, "On the Sabboth day wee rested." And with 
grateful joy they held their customary service, in 
the shelter of the boulder. 

Monday they sounded the harbor, as Bradford re- 

36 William Bradford of Pli/vioufh 

lates, and found it fit for shipping. Then they landed, 
bringing the boat by a large rock, whence they could 
more conveniently step ashore. The place proved 
uninhabited, but with desirable clearings, showing 
signs of rather recent occupancy. Marching about, 
they discovered the various natural advantages, in- 
cluding a number of brooks. They were satisfied 
that the location would be suitable for settlement. 
So passed December 21, our Forefathers' Day. 

It was good news which this advance party 
brought back to the Mayflower, and they all pre- 
pared to come to Plymouth, as they called it, because 
it had already been so named by Captain John Smith 
a few years before; and thus they also remembered 
the old Plymouth where .they last beheld England, 
and were kindly entertained. 

Sad intelligence, however, awaited William Brad- 
ford. His wife Dorothy May, doubtless oppressed 
with loneliness in his absence, perhaps pensively and 
by herself looking for his return at the high stern's 
rail near the ladies' cabins, in weariness and weakness 
might easily have fallen asleep as in a rolling cradle, 
especially if seeking the relief of the salt ozone after 
nausea. In such case losing her balance, she fell 
overboard and was drowned, probably the stern's 
height making the water's concussion sufficient to 
produce instantaneous unconsciousness. 

On Christmas Day in our reckoning, the fifteenth 
in theirs, the Mayflower set sail for Plymouth, but 

The PUgrim 37 

contrary winds beat her back to her old anchorage. 
Next day, Saturday, the attempt was successful, 
barely ; for within half an hour after arrival an ad- 
verse gale sprang up outside. But the sickle-shaped 
harbor held them safely. The long voyage was ended 
at last, a few days before the second decade of the 
seventeenth century closed. 

It went out in a cold rain-storm, with the life of 
another Pilgrim, for mortality had already com- 
menced. Furious winds and driving rain, again deep 
snow followed by bitter cold, with consequent in- 
crease of sickness, hindered the colonists in their ef- 
forts to build log houses there in the dead of winter. 

New Year's Day, 1621, a tempestuous Friday, 
beheld a new-bom babe, but unbreathing; and the 
first Sabbath ashore witnessed the seventh death in 
America, a toll of the dread Harvester which con- 
tinued through all that winter, until seven times seven 
and two more expired, or almost half their whole 
company, while the Maj'flower crew lost in the same 
proportion of fifty per cent. The vessel was retained 
till April, not only because adequate habitations 
could not be constructed soon enough under such 
fearful circumstances, but because there were not 
enough sailors in health to man the ship. 

Only four of the eighteen wives were spared. Five 
of the children died, yet fifteen survived. Bradford 
records concerning the survivors of this perilous en- 
terprise, in uncertain exile compelled by persecution, 

38 William Bradford of Plymouth 

"of these in the time of most distress, there was but 
six or seven sound persons who, to their great com- 
mendations be it spoken, spared no pains, night or 
day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their 
own health, fetched them wood, made their fires, 
dressed their meat, made their beds, washed their 
loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them; in a 
word did all the homely and necessary offices for 
them; and all this willingly and cheerfully, without 
any grudging in the least, showing herein their true 
love unto their friends and brethren." 

This first month of the year and of the Colony 
brought Bradford himself a severe illness, in which 
an accident also threatened his life. A month from 
the original Forefathers' Day "the common house" 
was completed, where the workers slept and supplies 
from the ship were deposited. In tliis building, small 
like the seven dwellings that followed, lay in weakness 
Masters Carver and Bradford, one the Pilgrims' first 
Governor, even from sea-faring days, the other soon 
to be his successor. Early one Sunday morning the 
thatch roof caught fire and burned, thougli the house 
underneath was saved. The occupants escaped, 
though not without grave danger from explosion be- 
cause of powder stored there. 

The plan of the little village was laid out Janu- 
uary seventh. Its main thoroughfare was simply 
called the Street, then, successively. First, Great, 
and Broad Street; but as late as 1823 it took the 

TJie Pilgrim 39 

name of Leyden. On either side of it, less than a 
score of plots were set off for the various families. 
The distribution was by lot, though larger house- 
holds received larger areas, according to the number 
of their members. The whole tract was enclosed next 
year within a stout palisade, about a mile in circuit, 
after signs of native hostility had made them more 
watchful than ever. On the hill at the head of the 
street a wooden fort was built, with which Bradford 
was said to be much pleased, as it was comparatively 
large and imposing. On its flat roof ordnance was 
installed, commanding the whole port. The interior 
was used for Sabbath congregations, and was the 
most commodious place for any public assembly. 

Almost from the first they had heard now and then 
a strange clamor on the outskirts, and occasionally 
they liad caught sight of one or more savages lurk- 
ing about. Several attempts to hold a general meet- 
ing had been prevented by the appearance of red 
men, including an agreeable visit from Samoset, a 
chief from the north who had learned sufiiciently 
from English fishermen to enable him to converse 
with the Pilgrims and give them much valuable in- 
formation. And within a week from that, the head 
of all the Old Colony tribes, Massasoit, came with 
about sixty men, forty of whom tarried outside while 
he and the others approached unarmed into the midst 
of ready firearms and within the secure walls of a 
house. Here was offered and received the mutual 

40 William Bradford of Plymouth 

covenant of a friendship that proved lasting. Both 
contracting parties remained ever faithful to this 
solemn treaty. 

After the departure of Massasoit, the colonists 
held their first full convention, choosing officers and 
making a few statutes such as were then needed. John 
Car\'er, their excellent deacon and the senior of them 
all, was re-elected Governor, to continue for one year, 
the regular time limit adopted. 

But the Mayflower had not long sailed away, in the 
middle of April, before Carver succumbed to an early 
heat, as he toiled with his ^^ounger comrades in their 
planting; and the messenger of death released him 
from those initial responsibilities, which had weighed 
heavily upon him. His obsequies were performed 
with appropnate dignity, the seaside resounding 
with volleys discharged in his honor above the grave. 

Then the reduced Colony assembled again, and 
voted to place William Bradford in the office vacated 
by their worthy first leader. 



They are dead, God rest their souls, hut their lives 
are still the strength of ours. . . . Let us stand aside in 
silent veneration of their heroic characters and achieve- 
ments, and thank God who strengthened them for labors 
we cannot even comprehend, 

Jane G. Austin^ in "Standish of Standish." 

All great ^- honorable actions are accompanied rvith 
great difflctdties, and must he enterprised and overcome 
with answerable courages. 

William Bradford. 

rr^HE new executive was still handicapped by the 
"*■ weakness of convalescence after his critical ill- 
ness, though the election had been postponed till he 
was better ; and he was aided by Isaac Allerton, a 
colonist of means and ability who was chosen as Gov- 
ernor's Assistant. At the chief magistrate's request, 
five assistants were given him in 1624, and the num- 
ber was increased to seven in 1633 when his suc- 
cessor Edward Winslow was elected, "Mr. Bradford 


4S William Bradford of Plymouth 

having been governor about ten years, and now by 
importunity got off," as Governor Winthrop of the 
Massachusetts Bay Colony wrote in his manuscript 
history of New England. The importunity was Brad- 
ford's, not the little Colony's ; for he urged rotation 
of office, saying of the appointment, "If it is any 
honor or benefit, it is fit others should be made par- 
takers of it ; if it is a burden (as doubtless it is), it is 
but equal others should help to bear it, and this is the 
end of Annual Elections." 

Consequently Thomas Prince, a later settler, was 
voted to this position in 1634 and '38, and Mr. Wins- 
low again in '36 and '-i^, three times in all. After 
that, for thirteen consecutive springs, Mr. Bradford 
was placed in the gubernatorial chair, and but for his 
decease then, he would probably have continued long 
therein. As it was, he held the oflSce thirty full years. 
And in every instance when his request for a succes- 
sor was heard, the ballot made him chief of assistants, 
or Deputy Governor. What clearer evidence could 
be furnished us, as to the sentiment of the people, 
both in their small original company and as num- 
bers increased.'' 

His administration exhibited a happy blending of 
his constitutional mildness and moderation, combined 
with a firmness that could not be shaken, a patience 
that would not wear out, and an optimistic hope that 
was based upon his Christian faith. Offenders against 
the law and the community's peace felt his determina- 

The Governor: Early Duties 43 

tion, but no one was more ready to pardon the hum- 
bled and restore to them the full privileges of citi- 
zenship. In matters of diplomacy and difficult cor- 
respondence, including delicate foreign relations, he 
was tactful 3'et insistent upon principle, defending 
with a keen sense of justice the honor of the colonial 
state. Conventional courtesies did not deceive him, 
where opposition lay concealed; yet he modestly dis- 
owned sincere and merited praise when he considered 
it unwarranted. Scrupulous not to exceed his pre- 
rogatives, he was ready to surrender what some in his 
place would have thought their proper rights. In a 
word, he did not hold his office anxiously. To him it 
was not a prize, a dear object for ambition to gain 
and shrewd policy to perpetuate, even when the 
Plymouth Colony grew in size and dignity. He men- 
tions his first election only, in particular, adding 
"once for all," that he was returned "sundry years 

There was indeed need for strength and calmness ; 
and the unfailing fortitude, coupled with a cool, clear 
foresight, gave assurance to the people alike during 
sudden but transient alanns and prolonged periods 
of impending disaster. Thus their confidence was not 
disappointed, but was strengthened with every fresh 
proof. Others had the same high spirit, for it was a 
noble democracy; but in all such situations coura- 
geous leadership cannot fail to have a steadying ef- 
fect upon the body politic. America did not outgrow 

44 William Bradford of Plymouth 

this need, and this benefit, in the later days of Wasli- 
ington and Lincoln. It is not at all strange that in 
the formative, we may say experimental years of New 
England, an unpretentious but wise and kind ad- 
ministration sliould have been gratefully appreciated 
and sustained, by the popular suffrage annually ac- 

As an instance of Bradford's repeated defense of 
the Colony in its course of action, this letter may 
suffice, which was addressed to Weston in answer to 
the latter's complaint that the Mayflower carried 
a light return cargo of pelts : 

"S'': Your large letter writen to M"". Carver, and 
dated y® 6. of July, 1621, I have received y® 10. of 
Novemb^, wherin (after y^ apologie made for your 
selfe) you lay many heavie imputations upon him 
and us all. Touching him, he is departed this life, 
and now is at rest in y® Lord from all tliose troubls 
and incoumbrances with which we are yet to strive. 
He needs not my appologie; for his care and pains 
was so great for y® commone good, both ours and 
yours, as that thenvith (it is thought) he oppressed 
him selfe and shortened his days ; of whose loss we 
cannot sufficiently camplaine. At great charges in 
this adventure, I confess 3'ou have becne, and many 
losses may sustaine; but y® loss of his and many 
other honest and industrious mens lives, cannot be 
vallewed at any prise. Of y® one, tlier may be hope 
of recovery, but y^ other no recompence can make 

The Governor: Early Duties 45 

good. But I will not insiste in gcneralls, but come 
more perticulcrly to y® things them selves. You 
greatly blame us for keping y® ship so long in y® 
countric, and then to send lier away emptie. She 
lay 5. wcks at Cap-Codd whilst with many a weary 
step (after a long journey) and the indurance of 
many a hard bruntc, we sought out in the foule win- 
ter a place of habitation. Then we went in so tedious 
a time to make provission to sheelter us and our 
goods, about w"^^ labour, many of our armes & leggs 
can tell us to this day we were not necligent. But it 
pleased God to vissite us then, with death dayly, 
and with so generall a disease, that the living were 
scarce able to burie the dead ; and y^ well not in any 
measure sufficiente to tend y® sick. And now to be 
so greatl}'^ blamed, for not fraighting y® ship, doth 
indeed goe near us, and much discourage us. But 
you say you know we will pretend weaknes ; and doe 
you think we had not cause? Yes, you tell us you 
beleeve it, but it was more weaknes of judgmente, 
then of hands. Our weaknes herin is great we con- 
fess, therfore we will bear this check patiently 
amongst y® rest, till God send us wiser men. But 
they which tould you we spent so much time in dis- 
coursing & consulting, &c., their harts can tell their 
toungs, they lye. They cared not, so they might 
salve their owne sores, how they wounded others." 

Two problems quickly confronted the new chief 
magistrate, and they were surely serious enough : the 

46 William Bradford of Plymouth 

problem of a bare subsistence, and of defense against 
hostile invasion by the natives. 

New Plymouth was not new as a plantation. This 
was the site of the Indian village of Patuxet, whose 
occupants had worked its somewhat restricted area 
of tillage, until about four years previously, when 
they and other settlements of the aborigines were 
desolated by plague. A survivor of these Patuxets, 
Tisquantum or Squanto, showed himself to the Eng- 
lishmen, and became their valued friend and helper. 
Doubtless glad to return to his old home, he in- 
structed the colonists in the cultivation of the maize, 
or Indian com, an indigenous American product 
which has become appreciated over the world wher- 
ever it thrives. It was the Pilgrims' dependence, and 
a staple article of trade. The wheat and peas they 
brought with them failed, and without the com, 
threatening starvation must soon have closed their 
career. As it was, during the first two years they 
had a veritable battle for existence. Though dis- 
temper did not return to them after the horrors of 
the first winter, they became emaciated under reduced 
rations ; but regulations in severity here were merci- 
ful, saving the Colony from annihilation, from one 
planting time to another. 

Squanto lightened this task of the authorities by 
his lessons in hunting venison, snaring rabbits, catch- 
ing wild fowl, and fishing, especially during the year- 

The Governor: Early Duties 47 

\y herring inin in the town brook up to the lovely 
pond called Billington Sea because its discoverer, 
young Fi-ancis Billington mistook it for a salt 

Also the faithful shallop was in constant use by 
successive parties, who went out into the bay and 
came not back without a haul of lobsters, cod, or 
other fish, though at first they were poorly provided 
with deep-sea tackle and proper nets. Clams afforded 
a further help, the people treading and digging the 
flats at low tide, while eels and crabs supplemented 
this. They were grateful for these means of nourish- 
ment from sea and shore, preventing their extinction ; 
yet such could not suffice for permanent living. 

Bradford did all in his power to relieve the short- 
age of food supply. Little could be procured from 
abroad, and in the case of a visiting ship, the cap- 
tain's price was cruelly prohibitive. A generous 
captain of different character, in a fishing fleet to the 
north, persuaded his fellows to spare from their own 
allowance enough to load the Pilgrim boat. But the 
most of the required amount of corn was obtained 
by bartering various utensils and beads with the In- 
dians, though their natural improvidence usually left 
them without much of a surplus in crops. In trading 
expeditions by land and water, Standish and Brad- 
ford were both active. And each of them at times 
was alone, of white men, among the natives. Brad- 

48 William Bradford of Plymouth 

ford once left a boat and walked fifty miles back to 
Pljmoutli from the south, for the friendly neighbor- 
ing tribes were not long in discovering his inherent 
gentleness and fairness. 

But firm discipline was necessary in times of dire 
need. A few unreliable persons had become mixed in 
the original company, and colonists new or old were 
punished by flogging, for the theft of corn, some of 
which was occasionally abstracted even before it was 
ripe. Bradford's appreciative quotation of Seneca's 
fine affirmation, that a man is free who has control of 
his stomach, in this near famine would seem to apply 
where self-denial meant malnutrition, to prevent 

Weakness and numerical smallness hindered the 
cultivation of the soil, and the climax was a severe 
droutli from the last of May, 1623, till about the 
middle of July, when the stalks nearly perished in 
the excessive heat. A day of prayer was appointed, 
in which the Pilgrims engaged earnestly for eight or 
nine hours, until a general cloudiness overspread the 
sky. This was followed that night by a gentle shower, 
which was renewed again and again, with intervals of 
sunshine, throughout a fortnight. The planting was 
saved, to the astonishment of the Indians and 
the deep gratitude of the Christian community. 
Famine fled for ever. And as the spared crop ma- 
tured, a Day of Thanksgiving was ordered by the 
Governor and concurring Council, a season which 

The Governor: Early Duties 49 

has been observed annually ever since, and finally 
throughout the nation. 

Bradford did not show favor to the industrial 
policy of holding all things in common, which was 
at first attempted and which, because of its early 
apostolic connection, was supposed to be under divine 
sanction. If he tolerated the idea at first, he gives no 
sign of approval ; and when it was abandoned he ob- 
served : "The experience that was had in this comone 
course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that 
amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the 
vanitie of that conceite of Plato & other ancients, 
applauded by some of later times ; that y® taking 
away of propertie, and bringing in comunitie into a 
comone wealth, would make them happy and flourish- 
ing; as if they were wiser then God," 

This far sighted judgment applied equally to the 
communistic concept of that time and the present 
idea of a short working day, a living wage whether 
earned or not, and an absolute democratic control 
over all individual rights, which is the perversion 
of civil liberty, and more potent than despotism be- 
cause imposed by a multitude. 

Under private ownership of land, which super- 
seded the common stock plan, there was better in- 
centive to toil, and the Governor with pleasure ob- 
served that even the women and children went willing- 
ly afield. Assignments came to be made of one acre 
to a family, near the palisaded hamlet for conven- 

50 William Bradford of Plymouth 

ience and better security. But on petition of the 
planters, Bradford directed that the allotments 
should be for continuous use, rather than for one 
year as heretofore. This encouraged those who had 
achieved good success on their area, to go forward 
still in their agricultural accomplishments. They 
raised the more, as soon as numbers and strength al- 
lowed, because they found a corn market among the 
half-hundred fishing vessels which annually visited 
the northern coasts. 

The story is familiar, how the distressed new- 
comers at first smoothed the graves of their plague- 
smitten members, to hide the number of deaths from 
the savages, whose derisive shouts from the forests 
mingled with their lamentations. But this local In- 
dian menace was comparatively slight. All the Cape 
Indians, including those whom the Pilgrim explorers 
had unintentionally aroused, became before long their 
permanent good neighbors. This desirable outcome 
was facilitated by a singular circumstance, the roam- 
ing of a boy who lost his way. John Billington, Jr., 
wandered in the woods until the Cummaquid Indians 
found him twenty miles down the coast. They car- 
ried him farther, to the Nausets, the very tribe of 
the first encounter. Bradford sent notice of the miss- 
ing lad to Massasoit, who inquired for him among 
his subjects. On ascertaining his whereabouts, ten 
colonists and two interpreters were dispatched in 
the shallop to Nauset, who received the boy bead- 

The Governor: Early Duties 51 

laden and well, and held a friendly parley with Chief 
Aspinet and his men. These natives forwarded peace 
delegates to Plymouth, a course not actually re- 
quired but acceptable after their conflict of 1620. 

The whole region of Plymouth was offered free and 
empty to the white men, through the ravages of pre- 
vious pestilence. This providential visitation ex- 
tended as far west as the confines of Narragansett 
Bay in present Rhode Island, depleting the popula- 
tion where it did not wholly destroy. And further, 
these Pokanokets, the Sunrise tribes in a confeder- 
acy under Massasoit, were the more willing to heed 
their lord's pacific injunctions concerning the Eng- 
lish, because they themselves in their weakened con- 
dition were threatened with invasion and conquest 
by the powerful Narragansetts. Self-preservation, 
as well as commercial advantage, prompted the never 
broken treaty made that spring. It was an idea 
mutually welcome, a most happy plan for both af- 
flicted parties. Only one chief, Corbitant in the 
Taunton valley, was displeased and jealous, and 
threatened trouble; but a prompt expedition to the 
interior frightened him away back home. He sued 
for favor through Massasoit, and affixed his mark 
below those of eight other chiefs, in a covenant of 
loyalty to King James across "the big water." 

The Rhode Island Indians were irritated by this 
unprecedented alliance of natives with foreigners, 
and knowing the English losses they sent the famous 

62 William Bradford of Plymouth 

rattlesnake skin with its challenging arrows, to Ply- 
mouth. But its speedy return filled with powder and 
balls and accompanied by a friendly but warning 
message, punctured their pride and put for a while 
a complete quietus on their warlike aspirations. 

The most serious peril arose in 1623, from the 
populous Massachusetts tribes along the northern 
bay which, with the later state, adopted their name. 
These were never over-friendl}^ and the later Salem 
and Boston colonists found their own numerical 
strength was a needed preventive of further native 
hostilities after the first had been suppressed. The 
wrath of the red northerners was fanned into fury 
by the wicked and abusive conduct of sixty Wessa- 
gusset settlers, a worthless and improvident lot which 
Thomas Weston imposed upon Plymouth in the time 
of scarcity, until they went up the coast by them- 
selves. Even then Standish, and later Bradford, 
took command of their pinnace the Swan in attempts 
to procure com for distribution in both colonies; 
and the efficient Squanto died in one of these voyages, 
despite tender nursing by the Governor. 

But the Wessagusset men repaid the terribly taxed 
hospitality and courtesy of the Pilgrims by at- 
tempted thefts of com and insolent demeanor while 
at Plymouth; then they provoked their heathen 
neighbors, with whom they competed in bad behavior ; 
and finally their remnant accepted the guidance of 
Myles Standish to the fishing fleet off the Maine 

The Governor: Early Duties 63 

coast, whence they returned to England for the good 
of America' 

It was in situations like these that the coolness of 
the Governor greatly helped to prevent the note of 
dismay, for the exasperated Massachusetts, in hope 
of exterminating every foreigner, sent far and near 
for concerted action of all tribes, and many joined 
in the conspiracy. In view of an uprising so wide- 
spread, it was natural that some in the little Colony 
should feel apprehensive, for the peril of extinction 
was real. Approximately between twenty-five and 
fifty thousand Indians occupied New England. Sup- 
ported by limited artillery and musketry, the 
wooden palisade was hardly adequate against the 
firebrands, hatchets and arrows of bloodthirsty 
swarming thousands ; yet it never came to the test. 
This is less surprising when we recall the fact that, 
in addition to showing an almost complete lack of 
organization, all the Atlantic coast natives were 
numerically weaker and socially inferior to the in- 
land tribes. White immigrants to the Old Colony 
found them especially weak there ; and in Patuxet, or 
Plymouth, they were extinct, except for friendly 

At this time the people revealed their trust in 
Bradford's judgment by leaving him to decide what 
measures should be taken in a crisis so acute, of 
which he informed them on the annual court day. 
Captain Standish was sent to Wessagusset, with only 

64 William Bradford of Plymouth 

eight men, as more would excite suspicion ; and they 
equipped the shallop for trading. But one day when 
two ringleaders and a couple of followers were in a 
hut with the whites, Standish gave the word, the 
door was shut and a struggle ensued, three red men 
being soon cut dowai, fighting to the last, while a 
fourth was taken alive and afterward hung. Three 
more warriors in the neighborhood were killed. This 
summary execution of only seven persons quickly 
prepared the way for finishing the disagreeable but 
necessary business without that further and abun- 
dant bloodshed, which would inevitably have ensued 
but for this stern action. A force of Indians who 
hastened to the scene were turned to flight without 
loss after a few shots, and the heart of opposition 
failed. The sudden collapse of warfare so carefully 
planned, is explained not only by the loose organiza- 
tion of those rude folk among themselves, but by 
the fact, as often in ancient history, that depend- 
ence upon leaders was extremely strong, and the 
fall of a hero caused consternation and despair. 
Also the terror of Standish, with his decisiveness and 
daring, was universal among all disaffected natives, 
who regarded him as invulnerable, for he had re- 
peatedly escaped the plots of intending assassins ; 
and he surprised his foes by his quick penetration 
of their deadly designs though covered by amicable 

This perception of sinister purposes was also well 

The Governor: Early Duties ^6 

developed in Bradford, as the following instance will 
show, though out of chronological order; and it was 
well for the Colony that both men possessed such a 
faculty, the impetuous Captain and amiable Gover- 
nor, who in their respective dispositions may fairly 
be compared with Christ's leading disciples, Peter 
and John. When the Massachusetts Bay Colony was 
at its full inception in 1630, there appeared the 
greatest threat of native opposition up to that time, 
considering its extent. It aimed at the annihilation 
of all New England settlements, north and south 
along the coast where they had obtained, or were 
securing, a finn footing. The older community was 
to be attended to first. 

The scheme was to request another grand sport- 
ing festival at Plymouth, natives and whites together, 
such as had been allowed to Massasoit and his men in 
1621, the year of the treaty. Though this pleasant 
precedent was shrewdly cited with all openness and 
apparent amity, Bradford refused the petition. 
Then the red men, realizing that they were under- 
stood, declared wrathfully and with unwonted bold- 
ness, "If we may not come with leave, we will come 

They rallied near Charlestown, whose people were 
also warned by their constant native friend, Saga- 
more John. Therefore the English, including women 
and children, hastily erected earthworks and built a 
small fort on top of the town hill. But the slightly 

56 William Bradford of Plymouth 

older settlement of Salem made use of what cannon 
it possessed, and the booming reverberations struck 
such panic in the dusky breasts, that they immediate- 
ly abandoned their campaign, although, as later in 
New England's interior, it might, if once started, 
have proved no farce even against explosive weapons. 
Thus ended the troubles with aborigines of martial 
mind in William Bradford's time. 

Within a year, lacking one day, after the May- 
flower had cast anchor in Provincetown harbor, the 
Fortune had brought an accession of thirty-five souls, 
mostly men, who replaced the male losses of the first 
winter. They were somewhat heedless youth, with 
more of adventurous ardor than judgment, yet such 
as could be controlled, and useful in the shortage of 
masculine muscle and total absence of horses and 
oxen. They stood ready for work or warfare, in 
those uncertain years before colonial establishment. 
Then, just after the drouth of 1623, the Anne and 
the Little James arrived in August with sixty per- 
sons, some of whom, however, proved so undesirable 
that the Colony, financially burdened though it was, 
willingly sent them back at its own charge. The most 
of them, both Separatists and others, were very 
worthy and welcome; and they included women and 
children, who had been left behind until they could 
expect an assured settlement to occupy. Elder 
Brewster received his two daughters. Doctor Samuel 

The Governor: Early Duties 67 

Fuller and Francis Cooke rejoiced to greet their 
wives, and there were brides to be. 

Besides these sixty, certain prospective planters 
were accepted who did not wish to join Plymouth's 
colonial organization bound in partnership with the 
company in England. Specifications regarding them 
were drawn up, and mutually agreed upon. The 
opening article was thus generous in its spirit: 

"First, that y® Gov'', in y® name and with y® con- 
sente of y® company, doth in all love and frendship 
receive and imbrace them ; and is to allote them com- 
petente places for habitations within y® towne. And 
promiseth to shew them all such other curtesies as 
shall be reasonable for them to desire, or us to per- 

A letter came with these ships, from the general 
company in England, subscribed by thirteen names 
representing those who in that body were friendly to- 
ward the Pilgrims and were sending them this ac- 
cession of people. The missive concluded in this tenor 
of sympathy and encouragement, which doubtless did 
the recipients much good: 

"Let it not be greeveous unto you y* you have 
been instruments to breake y® ise for others who come 
after with less difficulty, the honour shall be yours to 
y® worlds end, . . . 

"We bear you always in our brests, and our harty 
affection is towards you all, as are y® harts of hun- 

58 William Bradford of Plymouth 

dreds more wliich never saw your faces, who doubtles 
pray for your saftie as their owne, as we our selves 
both doe & ever shall, that y^ same God which hath 
so marvelously preserved from seas, foes, and famine, 
will still preserve you from all future dangers, and 
make you honourable amongst men, and glorious in 
blise at y^ last day. And so y^ Lord be with you all 
& send us joy full news from you, and inable us with 
one shoulder so to accomplish & perfecte this worke, 
as much glorie may come to Him y* confoundeth y® 
mighty by the weak, and maketh small thinges great. 
To whose greatnes, be all glorie for ever & ever.'* 

Edward Winslow was appointed to return with 
the Anne, for the procuring of needed supplies and 
especially to report the truth about the Colony, 
whose enemies had maligned it. This gifted and 
honorable man rendered a valuable service to Ply- 
mouth at that day, and to posterity ever since, by his 
detailed journal of events to that time, entitled Good 
Newes from New-England. He and Bradford, un- 
named, had previously prepared a Journal of the 
Plantation through June of the first full 3'ear, which 
was printed in 1622. That and the longer account 
were embodied in "Purchas his Pilgrims" in 1625. 

In the feminine contingent of these latest arrivals, 
there appeared one who was to share her life for 
thirty-three years wath tlie Governor of the Old 
Colony. She was previously well acquainted with 

The Governor: Early Duties 69 

him, and born in the same year. Alice Carpenter was 
the widow of Edward Southworth a descendant of 
Sir Gilbert Southworth, knight of Lancaster. When 
a maiden of seventeen, she had cast in her lot with 
the Puritans and lived a while as an exile in Holland, 
with her father. She became a woman of devout mind 
and great force of character. 

Alice must often have seen William Bradford in the 
Separatist community at Leyden. And in her widow- 
hood, two years after the tragic decease of Dorothy 
May Bradford, she received with favor his suit for 
marriage, which was happily consummated at Ply- 
mouth on August fourteen, Old Style. 

She brought over considerable property with her. 
Dorothy Bradford's son John, a lad under seven 
then, did not come till a few years later. He himself 
though married died childless, after threescore years 
of life; and he was given the position of Deputy to 
the General Court, before his father passed away. 
He received a house and land from a paternal will. 

Goodwife Southworth's own sons Thomas and 
Constant Southworth rejoined her within seven 
years, meeting their half-brothers, the Plymouth 
family having then been blessed with three little 
ones, William, Mercy and Joseph. The Bradford 
household, of parents and children, therefore com- 
prised eight persons, residing in the Governor's as- 
signed homestead at the south-west corner of the 

60 William Bradford of Plymouth 

square in the intersection of the two main streets. 

Mrs. Bradford engaged earnestly and long in la- 
bors for the young people at Plymouth. 

Though she survived her life-partner by nearly 
thirteen years, he had the joy of knowing some of 
the fifteen children of his son and namesake William, 
the Deputy Governor and Major, and several of his 
other son Joseph's seven children. His only daugh- 
ter, Mercy, married and was living in 1650. The 
grandmother's name was repeated in Alice, daughter 
of William Junior. 

Following a long debility, on April 5, 1670, shortly 
before the dark days of King Philip's war, the Gover- 
nor's consort closed, at her home of peace, her course 
of almost fourscore years ; and a relative, Nathaniel 
Morton, Secretary of Plymouth Colony, Ava-iting 
verses which are copied on the first original leaf of 
Bradford's History, "Upon the life and death of 
that godly matron Mistris Alice Bradford," said of 
her that after the obsequies of her husband, 

"E'r since that time in widdowhood shee hath 
Lived a life in holynes and faith 
In reading of God's word and contemplation." 



In thanhing God for the mercies extended to us in the 
past, we beseech Him that He may not withhold them 
in the future, and that our hearts may he roused to rvar 
steadfastly for good and against all the forces of evil, 
public and private. We pray for strength and light, so 
that in the coming days we may with cleanliness, fear- 
lessness and rvisdom do our allotted work on the earth. 

Theodore N. Roosevelt, 
in National Thanksgiving Proclamation. 

It is much better to keepe a good conscience and 
have y^ Lord's blessing, whether in life or death. 

William Bradford. 

A S Plymouth's third summer displayed its saved 
■^^- harvest which, with a fresh food supply from 
the Anne, promised enough by prudent management 
for the increased Colon^^, a sense of security and con- 
tent was justified. The new-comers, who had wept to 
see the founders' leanness and scant}' clothing, were 
glad to help as they could, and consoled their much 
tried spirits in the reunited and new families. The 


62 William Bradford of Plymouth 

lingering experimental stage had passed. Establish- 
ment was in sight. With only a few exceptions, 
every settler had done his part and would continue to 
do so, toiling for the general good as for his private 
welfare. The Governor perforaied his share of re- 
sponsibility, as he had willingly taken his equal por- 
tion in the emergency restrictions. He would not 
himself avoid in any degree what he liad been obliged 
to impose upon others. And in appreciation of his 
true democratic feeling they cordially co-operated 
with him, and were pleased to support him still as 
their civil head. But an external authorit}'^ was to 
try the genuine quality of his humility; and well it 
stood this test. 

The Council for New England, seated in old Eng- 
land, could not long direct affairs at that distance, 
as only a body subject to the British government and 
usually having no electoral voice abroad ; but before 
its early expiration it assumed at one time to do more 
than the Crown itself cared to undertake for Ply- 
moutli, which was never of marked political im- 
portance to the realm. This eplienicral Council 
superseded the colonists' head by the appoint- 
ment of a Governor General of New England, 
Captain Robert Gorges, son of Sir Ferdinando the 
famous promoter of provincial territor}'. On his ad- 
visory board was Admiral Francis West, who had 
unsuccessfully served a monopoly seeking exclusive 
control of the New England fishing grounds, and one 

The Governor: Later Administration 63 

William Bradford, resident in New Plj'mouth and 
generously accorded this favor "for the time being,'* 
a cop3' of his superior's commission being delivered 
to him. The Pilgrim leader not only accepted the 
situation, as his duty was, but did so with good grace, 
providing for the entertainment of Gorges and his 
considerable company during a fortnight after their 
arrival in September, an act of hospitality which was 
acknowledged with thanks. 

With the new dignitary were families intended to 
i*eplace, at Wessagusset, now Weymouth, those who 
had been there long enough to provoke the natives 
into the insurrection against all whites. 

Before they sailed up the coast, Thomas Weston 
also came into port, just at the wrong juncture for 
him. All his fraudulent villainy was charged against 
him by Robert Gorges, including the wrongs done to 
the latter's distinguished father. Bradford here dis- 
played his forgiving spirit by interceding in behalf 
of Weston, though he himself and all Plymouth had 
suffered because of his actions. Clemency being ob- 
tained, Weston thought himself free and, instead of 
showing gratitude, indulged in the spiteful expres- 
sions so congenial to his nature. Thereupon Gorges 
in righteous wrath vowed he would either curb or 
banish him ; and he would have done so had not Brad- 
ford, secretly entreated by the wretch, again pro- 
cured his release with much difficulty. This and other 
favors granted to him, when in dire straits or per- 

64 William Bradford of Plymouth 

sonal peril, were ignored by Weston, who from a safe 
distance still proved his inherent depravity by re- 
viling the Pilgrims. 

A single American winter sufficed for Gorges and 
the bulk of the Wessagusset colony. Relinquishing 
his magisterial powers, necessity compelled him to re- 
turn home before spring, accompanied by some of his 
people. Others were carried to Virginia, only a few 
remaining in Weymouth. Thus quickly terminated 
the assumption of external, delegated authority at 
Plymouth as a separate Colony, the British govern- 
ment being usually content to grant, though unoffi- 
cially and by sufferance, its autonom}', even to the. 
choice of its chief executive, which was not the case 
at Massachusetts Bay. 

In an opportune time when opposition among the 
English patrons was developing against the New 
England Separatists, Winslow did his part well in 
defending, abroad, the Colony from its unfriendly 
critics, who had misrepresented it from the time of 
the Mayflower's return >vith her rough, profane crew, 
to the reprobate malcontents who had to be deported. 
And now, when the Charity went back in which Wins- 
low had returned, having left her cargo of necessities 
such as much needed clothing and cattle for breeding, 
she conveyed home specific answers b}' the Governor, 
to a dozen baseless criticisms. Two are cited, in the 
loose orthography of the day. Variable spelling was 
no sure sign of illiteracy then, as with Bradford and 

The Governor: Later Administration 65 

contemporary writers of good thought and digni- 
fied style. 

Thus he meets the leading calumny, as to "divers- 
itie about Religion :" 

"We know no such matter, for here was never any 
controversie or opposition, either publicke or pri- 
vate, (to our knowledg,) since we came." 

The last objection designed to injure Plymouth 
was this : "The people are much anoyed with mus- 

"Ans: They are too delicate and unfitte to begin 
new-plantations and collonies, that cannot enduer 
the biting of a muskeeto ; we would wish such to 
keepe at home till at least they be muskeeto proofe. 
Yet this place is as free as any, and experience 
teacheth that y® more y® land is tild, and y® woods 
cut downe, the fewer ther will be, and in the end 
scarce any at all." 

Bradford prepared this clear and direct rejoinder 
to the unjust charges, at the urgent request of the 
planters' foreign agent. And the unexpected de- 
fense "did so confound y® objecters, as some con- 
fessed their falte, and others deneyed what they had 
said, and eate their words, & some others of them 
have since come over againe and heere lived to con- 
vince them selves sufficiently, both in their owne & 
other mens judgments." 

The Governor further justified Plymouth's course 
by a series of replies, which became useful locally and 

66 Williarn Bradford of Plymouth 

for posterity, but were not sent abroad, as the let- 
ters of complaint were intercepted and seized. He 
had now to cope with internal revolt, headed by John 
Lyford and Jolin Oldham. Lyford was an exceed- 
ingly disreputable and discredited clergyman of the 
Established Church Avho, like Morell of Wessagusset 
previously, had been sent in hope of superseding 
Elder Brewster and breaking up the much disliked 
Separatist order in New England. Morell had per- 
ceived the strength of the Pilgrim fellowship, and 
was wise enough to make no vain attempt to subvert 
its order, only daring to mention, on leaving the 
country, the ecclesiastical authority with which he 
had been invested. His successor, in this dark scheme 
of foreign persecution, sought with serpentine clever- 
ness to ingratiate himself; but liis effusive servility 
nauseated those sterling souls. As Bradford graph- 
ically recorded, "when this man first came a shore, 
he saluted them with that reverence & humilitie as is 
seldome to be seen, and indeed made them ashamed, 
he so bowed and cringed unto them, and would have 
kissed their hands if they would have suffered him; 
yea, he wept & shed many tears, blessing God that 
had brought him to see their faces ; and admiring y® 
things they had done in their wants, &c. as if he had 
been made all of love, and y^ humblest person in y® 

Nevertheless, not kno\nng his reprobate nature, 
they gave the clerical the best entertainment they 

The Governor: Later Administration QTl 

could, a larger allowance from the stored food than 
any other had, and, "as the Gov'' had used in all 
waightie affairs to consulte with their Elder, Mr. 
Brewster, (togeither with his assistants,) so now he 
caled Mr. Liford also to counsell with them in their 
waightiest bussineses." Soon he desired admission 
to the church, and was received, confessing that his 
conscience had been troubled by much wrong doing, 
and professing gratitude for "this opportunity of 
freedom and liberty to enjoy the ordinances of God 
in purity among his people." 

Oldham also, who had been a malcontent and evil 
informant to parties abroad, now, to quote again the 
magisterial historian, "tooke occasion to open his 
minds to some of y*^ cheefe amongst them heere, and 
confessed he had done them wrong both by word & 
deed, & writing into England ; but he now saw the 
eminente hand of God to be with them, and his bles- 
ing upon them, which made his hart smite him, neither 
should those in England ever use him as an instru- 
mente any longer against them in any thing; he also 
desired fomier things might be forgotten, and that 
they would looke upon him as one that desired to close 
with them in all things, with such like expressions. 
Now whether this was in hipocrisie, or out of some 
sudden pang of conviction (which I rather thinke), 
God only knows. Upon it they show all readynes to 
imbrace his love, and carry towards him in all frend- 
Ivness, and called him to counsell with them in »L 

68 William Bradford of Plymouth 

checfe affairs, as y® other, without any distrust at 

Thus generous and patient was the Governor and 
his Pilgrim comrades. They were ready to let a man 
make amends for his misdeeds. But very soon Brad- 
ford had opportunity to show that he had discretion 
as well as mercy. 

Lyford saw no prospect of his becoming the 
"spiritual" head at Plymouth, although by his en- 
couragement some of the Merchant Adventurers in 
England succeeded in still keeping the Pilgrims' true 
pastor from coming to his own, as he desired to do, 
writing to them concerning his unwilling absence. 
Tliey even pleaded lack of funds to transport him 
and Mrs. Robinson, though they could send Lyford 
with his numerous family. This man and Oldham se- 
cretly lapsed back into their congenial wa^'s, and they 
busied themselves in efforts to stir up discontent and 
sedition, among those who had been generously al- 
lowed residence at Plj'mouth without assuming the 
colonial foreign obligations. There were stealthy 
gatherings and whisperings, wliich the government 
discovered. There was industrious writing of letters 
intended for English consumption. 

As the mail carrier sailed, the Governor and sev- 
eral others accompanied her in the shallop until well 
out, when he called for all the letters of Lyford and 
Oldham. The ship master, knowing the evil conduct 
of those men on both sides of the sea, cheerfully co- 

The Governor: Later Administration 69 

operated, finding over a score of vicious epistles, 
many of them bulky, and full of slanders sufficient to 
ruin the reputation of the Colony if believed. 

At night the Governor returned and nothing was 
said, the uneasy malcontents concluding Bradford 
had gone Avith messages of his own. Instead of this, 
he waited to see what their intentions were, and who 
were their adherents, particularly as one of the inter- 
cepted letters promised a change in church and state, 
and that they would bring this about soon after the 
ship's sailing. Therefore, mistaking the Governor's 
caution for timidity, without notifying him or the 
Elder they presumed to call a meeting of the con- 
spirators, on a certain Sunday. 

This was what Bradford had been waiting for, to 
know the disloj^al constituency. Swiftly he acted 
now, summoning the whole company to court. They 
were urged to state, frankly and fully, all their 
grievances, in the open and proper manner ; but they 
had nothing to say, and stoutly denied the charges 
laid against them. Their letters being produced, 
Lyford was struck dumb ; but Oldham began to rage, 
affecting righteous wrath over the interference with 
his mail. He called upon his supposed sympathizers 
to have courage and stand forth, but none of them 
spoke or moved. The Governor explained to the 
people the necessity of suppressing mutinous mis- 
sives ; and the assembly was shocked at the produced 
evidence, of seditious plotting in return for uniform 

70 Williajn Bradford of Plymouth 

kindness. The weak and variable Lyford, when some 
of his voluminous writing was read, suddenly gave 
way to copious tears, cursing himself and confessing 
everything, declaring that his actions were the result 
of his pride, vainglory and self-love, though he in- 
volved Billington and others who at once grew em- 
pliatic in denial. 

By way of illustration, and to show the breadth 
of the colonial policy, the first two charges, and their 
refutations, are here given. 

"1. First, he saith, the church would have none 
to live hear but them selves. 2'y. Neither are any 
willing so to doe if they had company to live else- 

"Ans : Their answer was, that this was false, in 
both y® parts of it ; for they were willing & desirous 
y* any honest men may live with them, that will 
cary them selves peacably, and seek y® comone good, 
or at least doe them no hurte. And again, ther are 
many that will not live els wher so long as they may 
live with them. 

"2. That if ther come over any honest men that 
are not of y® seperation, they will quickly distast 
them, &c. 

"A. Ther answer was as before, that it was a 
false callumniation, for they had many amongst them 
that they liked well of, and were glad of their com- 
pany ; and should be of any such like tliat should 
come amongst them." 

The Governor: Later Admmistration 71 

Sentence of banishment was imposed upon the 
miserable men, but Lyford's time was extended to six 
months more at Plymouth in the vain hope that his 
punishment might be connnuted on good behavior. 
Elder Brewster especially entreated for him, though 
this strange pulpit aspirant had hoped to supplant 
him. The clerical renegade's contrition began to 
cool in a few weeks, and he penned in great secrecy 
a letter to his backers abroad, which however was 
brought to tlie Governor, and all its charges an- 
swered in writing. In consequence, there was a re- 
vulsion of feeling on the part of certain formerly 
disaffected ones, who now so loathed these traitorous 
deeds that their owti loyalty was toned up. The 
Colony was rid of such experts in duplicit}', though 
Oldham rashly returned next spring, and became so 
defiant and abusive that he was first put under guard, 
then led away to a boat between files of musketeers 
who were ordered to strike him with the butts of their 
guns. Yet afterward in a fearful storm he confessed 
his wickedness and vowed that if spared he would do 
right. Delivered from drow^ling, he kept his word, 
proved his genuine good Avill, and behaved himself 
so well that eventually he had liberty to visit Ply- 
mouth when he would. In all these things the toler- 
ation of the chief magistrate and his associates, 
where toleration was possible, appears marvellous, 
though they were firm in protecting their essential 
rights and maintaining the colonial integrity. 

72 WiUiam Bradford of Plymouth 

But the English supporters of the unsuccessful 
revolution, vexed at the ministerial traitor's expul- 
sion, dissolved their company as then composed, 
broke with the Colony and thenceforth withheld their 
help. Also some of them, not content with this, 
manned a vessel on their own account, and dis- 
patched it ahead of any others to Cape Ann on the 
north shore, where Plymouth had established a fish- 
ing station. This expedition seized the stage and 
necessary supplies for the Cape Ann industry, and 
threatened to fight for their possession. Hereupon 
Bradford sent men to defend their authority, and 
help build a new drying stage; but those who were 
left in charge conducted the business so unsuccess- 
fully that it was finally abandoned. 

The Governor was now relieved from the chain of 
crises which had threatened to overthrow the Colony 
from its beginning. In the fourth year he found 
himself at the head of about one hundred and eighty 
people, including approximately a score of persons 
not in the trading company, together occupying 
thirty-two dwellings within the stockade. By the 
tenth year, 1630, Plymouth had grown to about three 
hundred inhabitants. 

When the Merchant Adventurers had failed in 
their scheme to break up the Pilgrim order in Amer- 
ica as in England, and so as a body had deserted 
Plymouth, four of their former company showed their 
own faithfulness by sending in 1625, on their own ac- 

Tlie Governor: Later Administration 73 

count, more cattle and clothing. In their accom- 
panying letter, they subscribed themselves, over mere 
initials, "your assured freinds to our powers." The 
following extract reveals their desire to impart cheer, 
as well as good things, to the distant toilers, in whom 
they also felt confidence. 

"Let us all indeavor to keep a faire & honest 
course, and see what time will bring forth, and how 
God in his providence will worke for us. We still 
are perswaded you are y® people that must make a 
plantation in those remoate places when all others 
faile and returne. And your experience of Gods 
providence and preservation of you is such as we 
hope your harts will not faile you, though your 
friends should forsake you (which we our selves will 
not doe whilst we live, so long as your honestie so 
well appereth). . . . Goe on, good friends, com- 
fortably, pluck up your spirits, and quitte your 
selves like men in all your difficulties, that notwith- 
standing all displeasure and threats of men, yet y® 
work may goe on you are aboute, and not be neg- 

Myles Standish was sent over in hope of persuad- 
ing the Merchant Adventurers to hold together, with 
the aid also of the nominally ruling Council for New 
England. But his earnest efforts met with only par- 
tial success, in a time of industrial depression prev- 
alent on account of the fearful pestilence there, to- 
gether with an uncertain political situation embar- 

74 William Bradford of Plymouth 

rassed by rumors of war with France. Nevertheless 
Bradford recorded for Plymouth, that "in y® mean 
time, it pleased the Lord to give y® plantation peace 
and health and contented minds, and so to blese their 
labours, as they had corn sufficient, (and some to 
spare to others,) with other foode; neither ever had 
they any supply of foode but what they first brought 
with them." He had previously spoken of the pro- 
visions brought by the sixty in 1623, but they re- 
tained them for their own use, and had no more than 
what they carried over with them. 

After Captain Standish returned from abroad, 
however, their peace of mind was sorely tested. They 
learned that their loved pastor, Mr. Robinson, could 
no more hope to rejoin them, for he had passed away, 
as also had their capable agent Robert Cushman, who 
expected soon to come to them. The efficient Sherley 
was seriously ill, whose initials had led in the joint 
letter of encouragement the year before. Many of 
their friends in Leyden likewise were dying, while 
others lamented that they could not leave Holland 
for New England. King James too had died, and 
Charles now reigned. Considering all these impor- 
tant changes, the Governor writes again : 

"To looke humanly on y^ state of things as they 
presented them selves at this time, it is a marvell it 
did not wholy discourage them, and sinck them. 
But they gathered up their spirits, and y® Lord so 
helped them, whose worke they had in hand, as now 

The Governor: Later Administration 75 

when they were at lowest they begane to rise againe, 
and being striped (in a maner) of all human helps 
and hops, he brought things aboute other wise, in 
his devine providence, as they were not only upheld 
& sustained, but their proceedings both honoured and 
imitated by others." 

They went resolutely to work anew, giving their 
attention to planting and trading. Bradford and 
Winslow proceeded by boat, with several hands, to 
Monhegan Island in Maine, where an attempted plan- 
tation was about to give up and sell out their trad- 
ing stock. A good supply of articles being procured, 
a number of debts were cleared away in consequence, 
and clothing bought for those who still needed it. 
Little by little their wants were being met, and actual 
discomfort prevented. 

Also Isaac Allerton was commissioned to go to 
England the same year Myles Standish came back, 
and with the assistance of friends over there, a for- 
mal agreement satisfactory to the colonists was 
drawn up and subscribed by forty-two Merchant 
Adventurers. Thereupon in 1627 Bradford and six 
or seven other leading citizens ran a large venture 
and made themselves personally responsible for the 
eventual purchase, by them and their partners, of 
the revived English company's interest in the Colony, 
amounting to eighteen hundred pounds, of which two 
hundred were to be paid annually at the Royal Ex- 
change in London. Next year, 1628, the transaction 

76 William Bradford of Plymouth 

was fully confirmed, with the best legal counsel avail- 
able; and the first instalment was paid. This grad- 
ual settlement was completed three years ahead of 
time, with the help of a large quantity of beaver 

Yet it was ten years beyond the expiration of those 
creditors' time limit of nine years before the Colony 
was finally free from heavy indebtedness to other 
parties in England, so making a financial struggle 
of a quarter of a century from the landing of the 
Pilgrims. To the lasting wonder of all who consider 
them, they exliibited alongside of their piety, a prac- 
tical business ability and perseverance, which ulti- 
mately was not frustrated by reverses such as the 
seizure of consignments by national enemies, and the 
loan to themselves of absolutely necessary sums at 
the fearfully extortionate rate of thirty and even 
fifty per cent. An indomitable tenacity, and the en- 
durance of rock, reposed in these gentle spirits. 

To facilitate commercial progress, Governor 
Bradford, Captain Standish and other competent 
men came before the body of colonists, recounted the 
weight of debt upon them, in this matter of buying 
out the English company's interest, and offered to 
undertake the payment of it themselves, instead of 
merely being responsible for the others ; only they 
asked that they might have the trade of the Colony 
for six years, after which it was to revert to them all, 
who were called the generality. The Colony was 

The Governor: Later Administration 77 

to purchase its exemption b}' yearly delivering to 
this internal smaller company a specified amount of 
agricultural products. 

This was a hazardous responsibility for the few 
most concerned, none of whom were persons of real 
affluence; and j-et they felt this was the only feasible 
way to push trade, unhindered by too cumbrous an 
organization, in which a number of incapable in- 
dividuals, and even some less earnest, were sure to be 
found. Efficiency and resolution were certainly 
needed ; for this little inner company dared to at- 
tempt, in two-thirds of the time granted for the full 
payment of the eighteen hundred pounds, not only 
the discharge of that encumbrance, but various other 
obligations devolving upon the plantation, approxi- 
mating six hundred pounds, or a third of the other 
sum. It was a bold venture truly, in their still lim- 
ited circumstances and with the loss of valuable help- 
ers abroad: — to assume liabilities aggregating be- 
tAveen two and three thousand pounds, or more speci- 
fically, about twelve thousand dollars in our cur- 
rency. Insignificant enough for a well established 
community, the load was large for these straitened 
pioneers in an almost unbroken wilderness, who re- 
cently throughout several years had struggled for 
their very lives. The feebleness of their condition 
makes their courage colossal. 

Yet the Governor and his several partners in this 
enterprise were no hot-headed speculators, rashly 

78 William Bradford of Plymouth 

making chimerical castles in the air, or busily blow- 
mg financial bubbles with foolhardy recklessness. 
They were a brainy group, and the outcome proved 
their judgment sober. Having by this time some 
basis of calculation, they took the long look, knew 
what they were about, and, though purposing to be 
as prompt as possible, were too cool to be in a hurry. 
Their sound discretion never failed; and they dis- 
played that rare balance which blends quiet repose 
of mind with resistless energy. 

One fortunate effect of such stress of business 
burdens was to develop territorial exploitation. To 
fulfil their purposes, they enlarged the area of their 
industry. Southward and northward their commerce 
spread. A small pinnace was built and placed in 
Monumet river, emptying into Buzzard's Bay. This 
could be reached by boat from Cape Cod Bay and 
Scusset river, with some colportage overland be- 
tween those two streams ; so avoiding the dangerous 
peninsular circumnavigation, and marking the main 
course of the present Cape Cod Canal. Thus was 
opened all the lower coast of New England, includ- 
ing the populous Narragansett Bay; access was 
given to the mouth of the Connecticut River, with its 
fair valley intersecting the country ; and the ap- 
proach was unimpeded, through Long Island Sound, 
to the New Netherlands. Here was trading ground 
indeed, all the way to the promising harbor at the 
Hudson's mouth and the seat of the mighty metropo- 

The Governor: Later Administration 79 

lis to be. This southern enterprise brought sub- 
stantial returns. 

Also in the north, a store house was put up on 
the Kennebec River, where Augusta, the capital city 
of Maine, should afterward arise. The Council for 
New England, over the signature of its president the 
Earl of Wai'wick, made out a patent to William 
Bradford, granting territory thirteen miles on the 
River, and extending fifteen miles on either side. 
Business there did so well at first, that the American 
debtors gained headway, until a disappointing agent 
abroad occasioned trouble by private competition. 
After carrying on trade for ten years, they leased 
the post for one-sixth of its profits, so receiving some 
regular income thence. 

In 1629 another Mayflower vessel brought to 
Plymouth thirty-five more Pilgrims from Leyden via 
the new settlement of Salem, and later a smaller 
number followed, but poorer and less capable, though 
worthy persons all. This serious matter, resulting 
partly from the indiscretion of friends, incurred an 
expense for transportation, new clothing and con- 
siderable maintenance, to the amount of over five 
thousand dollars in our money. The bulk of it was 
borne by several new partners in England; yet Ply- 
mouth's share was equivalent to a thousand dollars 
or a little more, which was never repaid to the Colony 
or even demanded back, and became a chief cause of 
Plymouth's indebtedness during its first quarter of 

80 William Bradford of Plymouth 

a century. Commenting on this final extra burden 
from abroad, Bradford thus expresses his wonder 
"that these poor people here in a wilderness should, 
notwithstanding, be inabled in time to repay all these 
ingagments, and many more unjustly brought upon 
them through the unfaithfulness of some, and many 
other great losses which they sustained, which will 
be made manifest, if y® Lord be pleased to give life 
and time. In y® mean time, I cannot but admire his 
ways and workes towards his servants, and humbly 
desire to blesse his holy name for his great mercies 

Even more than the intricacies of financial en- 
tanglements, the responsibilities of diplomacy rested 
in large measure upon the colonial leader. He had 
to deal not only with the uns^anpathetic home gov- 
ernment in England, but at one time with Dutch pre- 
tensions in New England, which emanated from Fort 
Manhattan on the future site of New York City. 
Perceiving clearly that they possessed a place of 
immense natural advantage, the desire of these Hol- 
landers was enlarged, to extend their area, both com- 
mercially and politically, from this safe and promis- 
ing base. They therefore sent letters to Plymouth in 
its seventh year, the year of the trading station's 
establishment near Buzzard's Bay on the south. 

Correspondence opened with this ample salutation 
as rendered in English : 

The Governor: Later Administration 81 

"Noble, honorable, wise and prudent Lords, the 
Governor and Councillors residing in New Plymouth, 
our very good friends." 

Bradford replied with an equally cordial tone, in 
which lay no lack of sincerity: 

"To the Honoured, &c. 

"The Gov'" & Counsell of New Plim: wisheth, &c. 
We have received your letters, &c. wherin appeareth 
your good wills & f rendship toward us ; but is ex- 
pressed with over high titls, more than belongs to us, 
or is meete for us to receive. But for your good will, 
and congratulations of our prosperitie in these smale 
beginings of our pore colonie, we are much bound 
unto 3'ou, and with many thanks doe acknowledge y® 
same ; taking it both for a great honour done unto 
us, and for a certaine testimony of your love and 
good neighborhood." 

After this modest beginning of his message, one 
discerns in the next sentence, underneath its tenor of 
genuine amit}^, a deep note of well disguised warn- 
ing, that no open question exists in the matter of 
mutual territorial relations. Thus the subordinate 
and latent inference is couched, almost like some un- 
intended meaning which nevertheless carries more 
weight than with a studied significance; for Brad- 
ford's very honesty itself was his constant safety : 

"Now these are further to give your Wor^^^ to 
understand, that it is to us no smale joye to hear, 

82 William Bradford of Plymouth 

that his majestic hath not only bene pleased to 
confirme j* ancient amitie, aliance, and frendship, 
and other contracts, formerly made & ratified by his 
predecessors of famous memorie, but hath him selfe 
(as you say) strengthened the same with a new-union 
the better to resist y® prid of y* comone enemy y® 
Spaniard, from whose cruelty the Lord keep us both, 
and our native countries." 

Following the adroit but legitimate suggestion, 
that their harmony is the more desirable in view of 
their natural foes, he concludes with this reminder 
of their former happy concord in Holland : 

"Now forasmuch as this is sufficiente to unite us 
togeather in love and good neighbourhood, in all our 
dealings, yet are many of us further obliged, by the 
good and curteous entreaty which we have found in 
your countrie; haveing lived ther man}' years, with 
freedome, and good contente, as also many of our 
f reinds doe to this day ; for which we, and our chil- 
dren after us, are bound to be thankfull to your Na- 
tion, and shall never forgett y® same, but shall hart- 
ilj"^ desire your good & prosperity, as our owne, for 

Notwithstanding these veiled admonitions, the 
Dutch sent further epistles, asserting now a claim 
over English territorial and trade rights, and de- 
claring that they would defend the claim. Yet the 
Plymouth Governor's versatile mind and ready tact 

Tlie Governor: Later Administration 83 

were equal to tliis new crisis, delicate as it was, and 
fraught with momentous possibilities. There was 
considerable correspondence, and mutual insistence, 
though always with conventional courtesy of lan- 
guage. Bradford preserved part of these diplomatic 
communications in his Letter Book. He remained 
firm in the English title, knowing the ground there- 
for, and requested the Manhattan magistrates to 
refer to their own home government, while he de- 
precated any future trouble to them from the Brit- 
ish crown. 

In the conclusion of one of his missives he offers 
this advice: 

"We desire your Honours, that ye would take into 
your wise and honorable considerations, that which 
we conceive may be a hindrance to this accordation, 
and may be a means of much future evil, if it be not 
prevented, namely, that you clear the title of your 
planting in these parts, which his Majesty hath, by 
patent, granted to divers his nobles and subjects of 
quality ; least it be a bone of division in these stir- 
ring evil times, which God forbid : We persuade our- 
selves, that now may be easily and seasonably done, 
which will be harder and with more difficulty obtained 
hereafter, and perhaps not without blows ; so there 
may be assured peace and good correspondence on 
all parts, and ourselves more free and able to con- 
tract with your Honours. Thus commending our 

84 William Bradford of Plymouth 

best service to our most noble Lords, praying for 
the prosperous success of your worthy designs, we 
rest your Lordships' 

Most sincerely affected and bounden, 

William Bradford, 

Govemour, &c. 
Plymouth, Oct. 1, Anno 1627." 

This seemed to be enough. They desisted from 
such designs as might not be deemed "worthy" by the 
benevolent English Governor, and for which he did 
not say he might pray. The unwarranted question 
was dropped, as to the Dutch prerogative. 

Nevertheless next year the Manhattan correspon- 
dent, Secretary Isaac de Rasier, came to the Monu- 
met station with trumpeters and a retinue, and was 
convej'ed to Plymouth by a boat sent to meet him. 
After several days' entertainment, he returned to his 
ship under escort, having been permitted to accom- 
plish his unprofessed purpose, to observe the condi- 
tion of the fortified English Colony, of which he de- 
livered a description, still extant, to his superiors at 
New Amsterdam. 

In 1633 Bradford also slistained the British claim 
in the Connecticut valley above the Hollanders' hold- 
ings, sending a vessel up the river to the navigable 
limits, past the threatening Dutch fort at Hartford, 
and establishing a trading post at present Windsor. 
Both New Amsterdam and Massachusetts had re- 

The Governor: Later Administration 85 

peatedly encouraged them to do this, but repented. 
This mercantile base was embari'assed by a wide- 
spread plague among the Indians, most of whom 
were unfriendly. After this reverse it was taken up 
by a party from Dorchester and, on Bradford's pro- 
test, only a sixteenth share in it was returned to 
Plymouth. The matter caused some feeling in the 
Old Colony toward its newer northern neighbor. Such 
rivalries and questions of debate between the two 
English sections made evident the need of the inter- 
colonial union which later arose. Harmony was 
sought and usually prevailed. 

Captain John Endicott, the new Governor of 
Massachusetts Bay residing at Salem, proceeded 
promptly to recognize Plymouth's head in this truly 
fraternal manner (his spelling modernized) : 

"To the worshipful and my riglit worthy friend, 
William Bradford, Esq. Governor of New Plymouth, 

"Right Worthy Sir, 

"It is a thing not usual, that servants to one mas- 
ter and of the same household should be strangers ; I 
assure you I desire it not, nay to speak more plainly, 
I cannot be so to you : God's people are marked with 
one and the same mark, and sealed with one and the 
same seal, and have for the main one and the same 
heart, guided by one and the same spirit of truth; 
and where this is, there can be no discord, nay, here 
must needs be sweet harmony ; and the same request 

86 William Bradford of Plymouth 

(with you) I make unto the Lord, that we may, as 
Christian brethren, be united by an heavenly and 
unfeigned love, bending all our hearts and forces in 
furthering a work beyond our strength with reverence 
and fear, fastening our eyes always on him that only 
is able to direct and prosper all our ways." 

In the following sununer of 1629 the sincere and 
cultured pastors at Salem, Higginson and Skelton, 
though ordained clergymen, wished to be set apart 
anew. To this religious assembly William Bradford 
and other delegates from the Plymouth church were 
invited. Adverse winds delayed their arrival by sail, 
and even the days of the stagecoach were then in 
the future ; but happily they were in time to give the 
right hand of fellowship to their brethren of the Bay. 

The closely allied civil and religious interests of 
the time were further promoted between north and 
south, under Governor John Winthrop, in his third 
year at Boston, the new and growing colonial seat. 
This excellent man wished to visit his gubernatorial 
brother, Bradford, and associates. There had been 
great sickness at Boston in its beginning, as in 
Plymouth at first, though proportionately not so 
severe in the colony which started with much better 
numbers. These Bostonians in tlieir crisis bought 
every available commodity from Plymouth, and for 
cattle they exchanged horses. Thus by their very 
exigencies, a good degree of commercial intercourse 
and brotherly regard was facilitated. 

The Governor: Later Administration 87 

With Governor Winthrop went the Boston pastor, 
Reverend John Wilson, and two other companions. 
Their journey was partly by water and latterly by 
land. Informed of their coming, a party headed by 
Governor Bradford and Elder Brewster hastened 
forth to meet them in the evening, and attended them 
into the town. During their stay of some days, they 
received the best entertainment that could be given 
them, at the executive residence and other homes. 
And when they returned, they were accompanied for 
some distance on their way, Bradford having his 
horse carry Winthrop. 

The Boston chief dignitary, historian of Massa- 
chusetts Bay as Governor Bradford was of Plymouth, 
wrote of the Sabbath which he and his comrades 
spent with their Pilgrim brethren. At that time 
Roger Williams, afterwards the devoted missionary 
and pioneer among the Rhode Island Indians, was 
living at Plymouth for a couple of years, and was 
mentioned by Winthrop in his narration, as was Rev- 
erend Ralph Smith, first pastor there for a short 
time, a good but mediocre man. Thus the record 
reads, in modem spelling: 

"On the Lord's Day was a sacrament, which they 
did partake in ; and in the afternoon Mr. Roger Wil- 
liams, according to their custom, propounded a ques- 
tion, to which their pastor, Mr. Smith, spoke briefly. 
Mr. Williams prophesied the topic he had submitted ; 
and after, the Governor of Plymouth spoke to the 

88 William Bradford of Plymouth 

question ; after him, the Elder ; then some two or 
three more of the congregation. Then the Elder de- 
sired the Governor of Massachusetts and Mr. Wilson 
to speak to it, which they did. When this was ended, 
the deacon, Mr. Fuller, put the congregation in mind 
of the contribution, upon which the Governor and all 
the rest went down to the deacon's seat and put into 
the bag, and then returned." 

Edward Winslow also once described another fea- 
ture of their worship: 

"We refresht ourselves . . . with synginge of 
Psalmes, making joyfull melodie in our hartes, as 
well as with y^ voice, there being manie in y® congre- 
gation verie experte in musick." 



I venture the prophecy that for countless years to 
come and to untold thousands these mute pages shall 
eloquently speak of high resolve, great suffering and 
heroic endurance made possible by an absolute faith in 
the over-ruling providence of Almighty God. 

Governor Roger Wolcott of Massachusetts, at the 
Bradford History Presentation, May 26, 1897- 

Quae patres difficillime adepti sunt nolite turpiter 

{What the Fathers with greatest difficulty effected 
do not basely abandon.^ 

Inscription on the monument of William 
Bradford at Plymouth. 

Sicut patribus, sit Deus nobis. 

{As with the Fathers, so may God be with us.) 

Seal of Boston. 

T N their personal visitation the colonial leaders 
■■• had opportunity to confer on matters of mutual 
interest, before there was any thought of their re- 
spective territories becoming merged indissolubly 


90 William Bradford of Plymouth 

into a noble Commonwealth. In 1630 Bradford had 
received in his name a patent, which ten years later 
the Plymouth court requested to have; but on his 
ready compliance, it returned the same at once to 
him, to whom and his heirs it had been made out by 
the authorities in England. This charter specified 
the area of the Old Colony, which, \mder the juris- 
diction of Plj^mouth, extended from Scituate, con- 
siderably below Boston harbor, to Narragansett Bay 
in Rhode Island, with Cape Cod on the east. Not 
long after this it included ten towns. 

Soon a decided forward step was taken, toward 
unity. In September 7, 1643, a confederation was 
formed, composed of the colonies of Massachusetts 
Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven, and 
named The United Colonies of New England. Prob- 
ably this coalition was in the minds of those who 
founded the United States of America. There are 
similarities in the very constitutions of the two gov- 
ernmental organizations, small and large. The four 
colonial sections were associated on a basis of politi- 
cal equality. A federal congress was formed, there 
being two representative delegates from every 
Colony, who were called commissioners, with one of 
them presiding. William Bradford was four times a 
commissioner from Plymouth; and twice he was 
chosen president, the second time in 1656, the last 
full year of his life. 

The preamble to this federal constitution thus 

The Governor: Last Acts 91 

commences : "Wheras we all came into these parts of 
America with one and y® same end and aime, namly, 
to advance the kingdome of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
& to injoje y® liberties of y^ Gospell in puritie with 
peace; and wheras in our setling (by a wise prov- 
idence of God) we are further disperced upon y® sea 
coasts and rivers then was at first intended, so y*^ 
we cannot, according to our desires, communicate in 
one governmente & jurisdiction; — " 

This union was higlily desirable, from considera- 
tions foreign and domestic. The supreme home gov- 
ernment was in a condition of uncertainty suggestive 
of either radical change or revolution itself ; and so it 
would be less able to attend to its provinces in case 
of need. And need might be at any time, with rival 
neighboring colonies under other national flags, and 
with the growing realization of the savages that if 
they wished for their former independence they must 
fight for it, soon or never. These facts were plainly 
perceived in the English settlements, with their loose 
and informal interconnection of only national and 
religious sympathy. 

The Massachusetts Bay Colony, beginning at 
Salem, had been powerfully augmented at Charles- 
town and Boston in the summer of 1630, by the ar- 
rival of its Governor John Winthrop and others who 
were soon followed by the New England fleet of no 
less than ten more vessels carrying about fifteen hun- 
dred colonists. The great natural facilities of Bos- 

92 William Bradford of Plymouth 

ton harbor and its environments encouraged a steady 
and numerous immigration, so that in 1643, the year 
of confederation, it is estimated that five times as 
many were found there as in the Old Colony. Con- 
necticut comprised now about the same number as 
the latter, three thousand, and New Haven half a 
thousand less. Numerically, therefore, the English 
in New England were not yet strong. Yet they were 
constantly growing in this and every respect, having 
now nearly fifteen thousand acres of grain and a 
thousand acres in gardens and orchards, with two 
thousand cattle and three thousand sheep. 

The limited body of legislators in this confedera- 
tion, was composed, however, of truly representative 
men. And Bradford had much previous experience 
in law. The first few and simple statutes of Plymouth 
were revised and enlarged in 1636, when eight dele- 
gates, representing also Duxbury and Scituate, co- 
operated with the Governor and his seven assistants. 

The seal of authority which he was accustomed to 
use was a double eagle. He was Chief Justice, Speak- 
er of the General Court, which granted him a double 
vote, and Auditor of the Treasury, all these func- 
tions being, however, on a scale so limited as to for- 
bid what in larger setting would seem an excess of 
prerogatives. The record of the 1621 meersteads 
are in his hand, as was the lost register of early 
deaths, marriages and punishments. 

Bradford felt keenly the numerical loss of Ply- 

The Governor: Last Acts 93 

mouth colonists who went out to form new communi- 
ties. Everywliere the pioneer mood was for expan- 
sion. In this way he was also deprived of a group of 
able men. Yet they remained mostly in tlie Old Col- 
ony, except Edward Winslow, who finally returned to 
England. In the year of colonial union Elder Brew- 
ster passed away, who had been not only a most 
worthy and acceptable preacher and virtual pastor 
at Plj'mouth, but a close adviser to the Governor, 
even as he had been the counsellor of his youth. The 
efficient military head, Myles Standish, was released 
by death from further responsibilities in 1656; and 
Bradford survived him only into the next year, 
having still the company of the public-spirited and 
helpful John Howland, of the remaining Mayflower 

Many of the best people of England were leaving 
for America. Much alarm was felt by the home gov- 
ernment on this account, in whose eyes colonial New 
England always represented protest. The former 
vacillated between aggression and hesitating aloof- 
ness toward this uncomfortable element of dissent, 
exceedingly vexed at such persistent survival and 
vigorous increase, and yet recognizing its most 
promising contribution to the strength of the realm. 
But always again, where royalty wavered, or on the 
other hand in desperation leaped to violent opposi- 
tion, the prelacy was close behind it with an 
urgency which often bordered upon dictation. 

94 William Bradford of Plymouth 

Of course the exception to this otherwise uniform- 
ly uncongenial Anglo-American interrelation was the 
regime of the Commonwealth. Had Cromwell sat on 
the throne of George IV, we would undoubtedly have 
been a lower Canada for a period of time difficult to 
delimit. It has been aptly stated that the Oriental 
idea of conquest was without incorporation, the Ro- 
man idea was conquest with incorporation but with- 
out representation, and the English idea of empire 
building was incorporation with representation. This 
is eminently true as regards England, to her credit 
be it said. And herein was her foll}'^ in forcing the 
American Revolution, because at that time she fell 
from her own ideals, which have so signally succeeded 
in the policy of practical colonial autonomy, vastly 
promoting her beneficent power. 

This happy principle of provincial administration 
was not 3'et developed in the seventeenth century, 
which was a season of preparation for the stupendous 
blunder of the eighteenth, perpetrated by a head- 
strong despot without the sympathy of his own home 
people or a large part of Parliament. The root of 
the trouble then was taxation without representation, 
and England learned a valuable lesson after quite an 
awkward experience. But regal antagonism found 
its provincial object in religious dissent as early as 
1634, when a warrant was issued to stay several ves- 
sels about to sail for America. In King Charles' 
reign, three ships were assigned to convey a governor 

The Governor: Last Acts 96 

and bishops to the west. Massachusetts was greatly 
stirred up in regard to this, forts were ordered built, 
and resistance was meditated. The program of abso- 
lutism lagged. Nevertheless it looked like a critical 
juncture, before the tension was relieved by the rise 
of revolution in Scotland, which resulted in the mon- 
arch's dethronement and decapitation. The lords 
accepted the colonists' petition, and gave forth that 
they did not intend to curtail their liberties. 

The New England Federation was an unprofessed 
Declaration of Independence. Their virtual asser- 
tion of popular sovereignty was temporarily smoth- 
ered by imported tyranny in the shape of Sir Ed- 
mund Andros. Yet the people's power slowly contin- 
ued to grow, and the erection of Harvard College was 
a mighty factor in the process before a decade had 
passed in the Bay Colony. Thither Plymouth sent 
her youth of promise. 

The claim is presumably warranted, that the un- 
sought but unchanging popular choice of the chief 
executive, this cordial will of the Plymouth people as 
a body, occasioned the later departure of individuals 
or small groups of citizens who might wish to give 
exercise to political aspirations, where fresh settle- 
ments offered more room for choice without a solid 
constituency for any one favorite. The Plymouth 
voters were the more ardent for their man, because 
he returned the patent which, if strictly interpreted 
by the old English law, would make him Lord of the 

96 William Bradford of Plymouth 

Manor and the colonists his tenants. In the essential 
democracy of the American community, he would be 
the last person to use the anciently established priv- 
ilege; but evidently because of the technical possi- 
bility the Court finally requested him to surrender 
his charter, and then, pleased at his ready com- 
pliance, as promptly restored it. They knew him 
beyond all doubt, after that transaction of 1640 if 
not before. 

His long continued term is especially noteworthy 
when we reflect that he was upheld as an ideal leader 
by a company of citizens who were ethically most ex- 
acting. They were peers of the best in all human so- 
ciety, and to satisfy such was indeed a compliment. 
At the same time, men and women of their excellent 
type, speaking at least for those of the church con- 
sidered in their civic order, were too noble to need 
the ordinary repressions incident to the task of 
governing. Except for the necessary form and prec- 
edent, their moral grandeur required no governor. 

Though he wrote against the sectaries with their 
sinister politico-religious designs or wishes, he did 
not drive them out unless actual treason developed. 
The Pilgrims realized they were themselves exiles 
from intolerance. Yet there was a degree of intoler- 
ance after Bradford passed out from Plymouth, and 
what bigotry was discoverable in Boston then was 
felt somewhat at the older settlement. The suc- 
cessor of Carver, like most of his associates, was 

The Governor: Last Acts 97 

also free from superstition, placing no credence in 
the supeniatural omens of comets and celestial 

It was his understood duty to entertain strangers, 
especially visiting officials. The Jesuit Driulette 
spoke afterward of his kindness, noting also that 
as host on Friday, he served an excellent dinner of 

At least seven orphans, but probably many more, 
at one time or another found refuge beneath his roof. 
Robert Cushman, the Pilgrim agent who died after 
valued services abroad, requested that his son 
Thomas might receive a father's care from Bradford, 
and the latter brought him up with such faithful 
training that eventually his charge became Elder 
Brewster's successor. To cite one further instance 
of his kindness, in 1644 Bradford wrote to his wife's 
sister, Mary Carpenter, inviting her to come to them 
though they had grown old, as he said. She accepted 
and lived with them in such tranquillity, as a devout 
maiden lady, that she survived till past ninety. 

The Plymouth town meetings were held at first in 
the Governor's house. But in at least two of the 
3'ears when relieved by a successor in office and 
sometimes during his gubernatorial term as in 1643, 
the more strenuous first year of Federation, he occu- 
pied his house and farm of three hundred acres in 
present Kingston, which he owned as early as 1637, 
above the Jones River. He was among its explorers 

98 William Bradford of Plymouth 

who took such a liking for the locaHty that they 
were tempted to establish the settlement there; but 
the stream ran shallow at ebb tide, and the sur- 
rounding woods rendered the situation more unsafe. 
In this quiet summer retreat he must have found 
more leisure to pen much of his careful History. 
When that had ended, by 164J7, tenants occupied the 
farm, and he is thought to have returned to town. 

The inventory of his property specifies "the old 
mare," possibly when in her prime the one he caused 
Governor Winthrop to mount, while the latter's 
party were escorted forth after visiting Plj'mouth, 
the departure being probably fully as ceremonious 
as when they were conducted to town after nightfall. 
Two horses besides, and a couple of colts are cited, 
with twenty-six head of cattle of various ages, and 
sheep and swine. He was the largest property hold- 
er, Standish rating next. At his decease he was 
worth about nine hundred pounds. 

He possessed considerable real estate in Plymouth 
centre, particularly the area between the Hill and 
Main Street, and across on the site of Pilgrim Hall. 
An orchard and garden adjoined his town residence. 

The house concerned with the inventory of his es- 
tate shows how far superior the executive residence 
must have been, to the original log cottages. The 
long list of articles in the inventory is available to 
those interested in all the minutiae. Every item has 
its valuation. The old parlor's furnishings head this 

The Governor: Last Acts 99 

attractive catalogue of the contents of his home, and 
imagination is not greatly taxed to see the possessor 

This reception room includes the green rug, quite 
likely the same as that early mentioned, and a white 
one, table and cupboard and settle, a smooth-grained 
"wainscot" bedstead and feather bed, and among the 
chairs a large leather one and great wooden ones, 
with muskets, a pistol and a cutlass. 

We pass in thought to "the great Rome," over 
three striped carpets and amidst chairs, great and 
small ; and here may have been the public functions, 
as the annual meeting. 

In "the new chamber," among articles of clothing 
picture two suits with silver buttons, one of them 
leaden-colored, garments of sufficient distinction for 
a magistrate, as are a coat of broadcloth, a well 
used violet-colored cloak and dignified old green 
gown. A black hat and colored one are mentioned 
without allusion to age. Fourteen pairs of shoes 
appear, and one hundred and thirteen yards of dif- 
ferent cloth. 

The family hospitality is evinced by sixty-four 
pewter pieces, some silverware and a few Venetian 
glasses, four dozen trenchers, and kitchen utensils of 
brass and iron. 

Among many things in the "studdie" are his desk, 
presumably the witness of an incalculable amount of 
official business, and seven small moose skins for the 

100 William Bradford of Plymouth 

silent tread. There is a good collection of books, 
though the most of them were passed on in his life- 
time, especially to his son William who possessed 
tlie father's fondness for Latin and inherited those 
classical treasures. But the Governor retained to 
the last various historical and theological works, 
among which were Luther's commentary on Gala- 
tians, Calvin on Genesis, a history of the Church of 
the Netherlands, and Cotton's concordance. A vol- 
ume on "domesticall dutyes" is cited, to the accom- 
plishment of which attest two spinning wheels. Mrs. 
Bradford certified to this appraisal. 

The will was made May 9, Old Style, the very day 
of his decease, when he "feeling himself very weake 
and drawing on to the conclusion of his mortal life 
spake as followeth." In the beginning of this testa- 
ment he was described as "weake in body but in p^^*^ 
memory," and he named the sole executrix as "my 
dear and loving wife Alice Bradford." 

Thus the dictated statement closes: "I commend 
to your wisdome some small bookes written by my 
owne hand to bee improved as you shall see meet. In 
speciall I comend to you a little book with a black 
cover, wherein there is a word to Plymouth and a 
word to Boston and a word to New England with 
sundry useful verses." 

The family record, from Governor Bradford's 
birth, was contained in a Bible printed 1592 in old 

The Governor: Last Acts 101 

Posterity is vastly indebted to William Bradford 
as the resident historian of Plymouth Colony, 
throughout its first quarter of a century. His nar- 
ration of the Pilgrim story begins almost with the 
seventeenth century, before the exodus to Holland. 
He makes no entries beyond IGl^G, although, in the 
same neat handwriting, these dates ai'e added — 
"Anno 16^7. And Anno 1648." Similarly, 1639 
and '4-0 had been joined together, the author ex- 
pressing his opinion that they did not cover enough 
matters of importance for separate treatment. But 
two years after the last date mentioned in the main 
volume, he concludes an Appendix with these words: 

"And of the old stock (of one & other) ther are 
yet living this present year, 1650, nere 30 persons. 
Let the Lord have y® praise, who is the High Pre- 
server of men." 

In the opening chapter, we find on a reverse page 
a note dated during that last year of the continuous 
record, 1646, wherein he says — "when I first begane 
these scribled writings (which was aboute y® year 
1630, and so peeced up at times of leasure after- 
ward)." It would seem that no season of sufficient 
leisure arrived even to begin, before that strenuous 
first decade had nearly elapsed. 

It is consistent with the unfailmg humility that 
graced the people's chosen and beloved leader that, 
although as such he necessarily had a most important 
part in the aflPairs of the Colony, he speaks of his of- 

102 William Bradford of Plymouth 

ficial self, when this is unavoidable, in an impersonal 
manner only ; and he rather rarely introduces the 
pronoun "I," or even its inclusive plural "we," but 
usually employs the third person. 

The language of tliis monumental work is that of a 
careful recorder, plain and unaffected, having a 
lucid simplicity combined with the replete vocabulary 
of a reflective literary mind. The style is dignified 
and chaste, neither labored nor strained. Its fluent 
grace and ease of diction compels and sustains the 
interest of the reader, whatever page he may peruse. 
It is a model specimen of Elizabethan literature. The 
account proceeds with a thoughtful deliberation and 
river-like momentum of progressiveness. One real- 
izes the faithful and honest comprehensiveness of his 
memory's scrutiny, obeying the habitual call of his 
conscience, which would not allow him the transcrip- 
' tion of untiniths under any circumstances. His re- 
view "of Plimoth Plantation" is well worthy of its 
place as New England's first historical record of 
considerable extent, following Edward Winslow's 
fascinating journal of the three initial years. 

It is the privilege of everyone to look upon this 
hoary manuscript, bound in its time-worn parclunent, 
and exhibited under glass in a specially prepared 
strong case upon its nightly enclosing iron safe at 
the Massachusetts State Library. The volume is a 
folio less than a foot long, nearly eight inches wide, 
and an inch and a half in thickness, having two hun- 

The Governor: Last Acts 103 

dred and seventy pages. At the outbreak of the 
Revolution the priceless treasure disappeared and 
was long lost; but finally, in 1855, it was found and 
identified in the library of the Bishop of London. 
Just when and how it reached its destination there, 
remains a mystery. The British occupation of Bos- 
ton would make its seizure easy, and the home gov- 
ernment may have desired it for official entries. Sen- 
ator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts, who said of 
the classic document, MThere is nothing like it in hu- 
man annals since the story of Bethlehem," voiced to 
Sir Frederick Temple, Bishop of London, the earnest 
desire of the Commonwealth and the Federal adminis- 
tration for its return. The Bishop recognized the 
justice of the request, but considered it necessary or 
advisable to consult Queen Victoria and Dr. Benson, 
who was Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of 
the Established Church of all England. But directly 
the venerable and scholarly Dr. Temple himself suc- 
ceeded to the supreme ecclesiastical office at Canter- 
bury ; and in response to a foraial request from the 
United States Ambassador, Hon. Thomas F. Bayard, 
the cherished tome was conveyed to America in 1897, 
and received by Governor Roger Wolcott, a lineal 
descendant of Governor Bradford. The formal pre- 
sentation at the State House made an impressive oc- 
casion, with memorable addresses. Such, briefly 
stated, is the singular history of the Histor3\ 

Two other literary properties of Bradford also 

104 William Bradford of Plymouth 

disappeared. His Pocket Book was presented long 
enough to furnish the chronologist, Rev. Thomas 
Prince of Boston, with many dates of great impor- 
tance, and other material of incalculable use. 

His Letter Book was a large volume containing 
copies of letters in regard to the Colony's affairs. 
Such a collection of reproduced missives betokened 
the carefulness and preparedness of the possessor. 
A fragment of it was discovered in a Halifax grocery, 
and published by the Massachusetts Historical So- 
ciety. Six of these letters found were written by 
Bradford alone, and three jointly. They were mostly 
official. Appended to this correspondence file was 
the Governor's interesting description and shoi-t his- 
torical review of New England, written in metre and 

Though we who speak of William Bradford as our 
Forefather should not be moved by pride, as no man 
is responsible for his own birth, it causes in us pro- 
found gratitude that we can affirm our relationship 
to one who has been called the first great American. 
Men of renown before his day, a few of them, had 
a touch with this country, as the very conspicuous 
connections of famous discoverers ; but the epithet 
applies to him as a continuous resident of the land. 
His life and labors were permanently given to it as 
his adopted abode, for he never left it from the day 
of his coming in the prime of his manhood. In what, 

Tlie Governor: Last Acts 105 

let us ask, did his greatness consist? Others shared 
in heroic faithfulness, to the limit of their powers 
or opportunities. His was the magnitude of an im- 
movable fidelity joined with marked ability, though, 
as with Washington, his mental genius was not the 
most brilliant. But he carried well and long exceed- 
ingly weighty responsibilities. 

When has a combination of so many most critical 
problems confronted a magistrate? Weakened by 
disease which threatened utter extermination, the 
Colony encountered a tedious period of famine; it 
was menaced by hostile savage tribes stronger than 
the friendly natives ; the malevolence of foreign per- 
secution plotted the overthrow of its chosen religious 
order ; treason sprang up in its midst ; a staggering 
weight of financial obligations, made heavier by ac- 
cidents and outrageous injustice, lay upon them for 
a quarter of a century; and the seventh problem, 
which stayed by the Governor till his final release, 
was that presented by the frequent loss of citizens 
attracted by new settlements, a circumstance so 
serious that the question of moving the whole Colony 
was raised as late as 1644. In all the arduous activ- 
ities occasioned by these facts, he possessed the 
quality of steady endurance. His soul was reposeful 
in energy, while his underlying faith made him an 
optimist but not a visionary, and lent both basis and 
balance in his working. 

106 William Bradford of Plymouth 

To Bradford also belongs the singular honor of 
being the first ruler to demonstrate, with his asso- 
ciates, true Christian democracy, not exaggerated 
into communism, as a successful principle of gov- 

Peaceful was his departure, from the scene of his 
colossal tasks. He last presided at court February 
13, 1657. The annual meeting in March found him 
absent. But though his health declined for a few 
months, to be followed by a sudden and acute dis- 
ease in May, the end came soon. One night he was 
so moved with anticipations of the hereafter, that 
he said in the morning to those about him, "The good 
Spirit of God has given me a pledge of my happiness 
in another world, and the first-fruits of eternal 
glory," About nine o'clock on the next day. May 
19, after he had dictated his will, his breathing 

His endeared form was laid to rest in the brow of 
the gently swelling eminence which overlooks the site 
of his homestead of thirty-six years and the blue bay 
seemingly meeting the heavens beyond the harbor, 
suggestive of the final voyage to scenes of yet nobler 
liberty. His obsequies were observed with fitting 
dignity, accentuated by resounding volleys. The dis- 
tinguished clergyman. Cotton Mather of Boston, 
wrote in eulogy, that he was "lamented by all the 
colonies of New England as a common father to 
them all." 

The Governor: Last Acts 107 

Let his own simple verses summarize his career. 

"From my years young in days of youth, 
God did make known to me his truth, 
And call'd me from my native place 
For to enjoy the means of grace. 
In wilderness he did me guide. 
And in strange lands for me provide. 
In fears and wants, through weal and woe, 
A pilgrim, past I to and fro ; 
Oft left of them whom I did trust ; 
How vain it is to rest on dust ! 

Wars, wants, peace, plenty, have I known ; 
And some advanc'd, others thrown down. 

When fears and sorrows have been mixt. 
Consolations came betwixt." 

And thus, foreseeing his taking away, he gave his 
blessing : 

"Farewell, dear children whom I love, 
Your better Father is above : 
When I am gone, he can supply ; 
To him I leave you when I die. 
Fear him in truth, walk in his ways. 
And he will bless you all your days. 
My days are spent, old age is come, 

108 William Bradford of Plymouth 

My strength it fails, my glass near run : 
Now I will wait, when work is done. 
Until my happy change shall come, 
When from my labours I shall rest. 
With Christ above for to be blest." 



Ancestors, 17, 18 
Auditor, 92 

Baptism, 12 
Birth, 12 
Burial, 106 

Capability, 20, 42, 92, 105 
Carefulness, 12, 64, 69, 104 
Character in general, 42, 104 
Chief Justice, 92 
Commissioner, United Col- 
onies, 90 
Correspondence, 43, 44, 81, 104 
Courage, 21, 41, 43, 51, 76 
Craftsman, 22, 24 

Death, 100, 106 
Deputy Governor, 42 
Diplomacy, 43, 80 
Discernment, 54, 68 
Discipline, 42, 48 

Education, 20, 22 
Escapes, 21, 35, 38 

Family, 59 
Farmer, 97 
"First Great American," 104 


Administration character- 
ized, 42 

First term, 41 

Returned, 42, 95 
Gratitude, 27, 48, 80, 107 
Guardian, 97 

Historian, 58, 101 
Hospitality, 52, 63, 67, 97 
Humility, *5, 11, 25, 42, 43, 62, 
81, 95, 101 


In childhood, 18 
In maturity, 38, 41 
Final, 100, 106 

Judgment, 25-6, 46, 49, 53 
Justice, 43, 44, 57, 69, 72, 83, 
85, 96 

Legislator, 92 
Library, 100 


First, 12, 24 

Second, 59 
Mercy, 43, 63, 68 

Patentee, 79, 90, 95 
Pedestrian, 20, 48 
Perseverance, 21, 76 
Piety, 12, 21, 61, 48, 80, 87-8, 

101, 106, 107 
President, United Colonies, 90 
Property, 18, 23, 98 
Provider, 47, 52 

Registrar, 92 

Speaker of the General Court, 
92, 106 


112 Index 

Thanksgiving Day, first for- Verses, 100, 107 

raal appointment, 48 
Trader, 47, 76, 79 Will, 100 

Toleration, 70, 96 

ITEB 2 3 1951